All course information is listed within this syllabus.

ANSC 215: Pets in Society (3 credits). Introduction to the varied roles that companion animals play in human society and their impact on human activity and well-being.

Prerequisites: None

ANSC 215 fulfills a general education requirement for social and behavioral sciences (GS).


Instructor for ANSC 215.

Nancy A. Dreschel
Associate Teaching Professor, Small Animal Science
Undergraduate Adviser
Adviser for the Small and Exotic Animals Club (SEAC)
Coordinator/Instructor Roar For More: Susquehanna Service Dogs University Park Puppy Raising Club

Department of Animal Science
312 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

I will do my best to respond to your e-mails within 24 hours, and I will let you know if I'm going to be unavailable for any length of time.


Hello, I'm Dr. Nancy Dreschel and I am an associate teaching professor of small animal science in the Department of Animal Science. I teach classes on pets in society, companion animal nutrition and management, and companion animal behavior.

Prior to coming to the College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State, I received my B.S. in animal science and my DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) from Cornell University. I then spent 13 years as a private veterinary practitioner. Two years of that were in a mixed animal practice (cattle, horses, dogs, cats, sheep, goats, pigs, etc.) in western Pennsylvania and then the rest was in predominantly small animal practices in New York State and State College, PA. I have always had a special interest in companion animal behavior and public health and returned to graduate school in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State where I received my Ph.D. in biobehavioral health.

I am very interested in the interactions between humans and animals and how each affects the lives of the others. My current research includes studying the stress response in dogs that have fear and anxiety disorders. My husband, two sons, and I interact with and share our lives with our 2 cats (Kitty and Penny), and a nervous border collie-mix (Mishka).

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:

  • Explain the varied roles that pets play in society.
  • Gather information and make informed decisions on pet ownership, pet care, and societal responsibility.
  • Make informed decisions regarding controversial legal and societal issues related to pets and understand the impact of individual actions and decisions on broader society.
  • Communicate views on pet-related societal issues through both writing and casual discussion.
  • Describe the scientific method and its use in information gathering.
  • Apply specific social science methodologies to societal questions.

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Course Materials

No textbook is required for this course.


This course requires that you access Penn State library materials specifically reserved for this course. You can access these materials by selecting Library Resources in the Course Navigation Menu, or by accessing the Library E-Reserves Search and searching for your instructor's last name.



Students will be divided into discussion groups of 6–8 students per group. The purpose of the discussion groups is to encourage you to think about your views of the many different ways that animals play roles in our lives and to share some of these ways with one another.

Students are expected to be civil and respectful of each other's views, even when disagreeing. Posts should be in grammatically correct English (not necessarily complete sentences, but no texting acronyms, please). Keep in mind that this is a college-level course, not an online game chat room.

Discussions will be assigned weekly and will either consist of responding to a specific reading or question posed in class or describing an example of "pets in society" that you see during the week. Discussion posts will count for 3 points each: 1 point for adding your initial thoughts, and 1–2 points for responding (thoughtfully and grammatically correctly) to another's post. For example, saying, "Yes, I agree," is a response but doesn't really add anything. For full credit, you must make a contribution.

Virtual Pet Assignments

Four assignments will be given that require you to choose a particular pet, determine how to select it, what it will require as far as equipment, care, and time, how much it will cost to care for it, what the health risks associated with that pet are, and what the costs for a shelter would be. The purpose of these assignments is to encourage students to understand the responsibilities and repercussions of the decisions that they make. Students are encouraged to choose one particular pet to use for all four assignments but can change if they want to. All written assignments should be submitted to the appropriate assignment page as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file.


There will be seven online, open-book quizzes based on the discussions, readings, and coursework. These will be timed tests taken at your convenience during a specified time period. Once you have begun the quiz, you will not be able to come back to it at a later time. These tests are meant to test your individual knowledge and understanding of the course material. They are not to be group or partner projects. The final quiz will be cumulative.

Research Design Assignment

Students will work in small groups to design a research project related to class and will individually write up their idea and submit it. All written assignments should be submitted to the appropriate assignment page as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file.


You will choose a controversial topic and find and evaluate supporting evidence for all sides of the controversy. This will be summarized in a short paper and/or project that will be due the last week of classes. More information, specific guidelines, and grading information will be given during the semester. There will be built-in deadlines for the completion of the project throughout the semester. This is expected to be your own work specifically for this course and should not be a paper or project handed in for any other classes. All written assignments should be submitted to the appropriate assignment page as a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file.

Extra Credit

Students may earn extra credit (up to 2 points to be added to the total number of points) by visiting or participating in a pet-related activity or business during the current semester. Examples might include visiting a shelter or rescue organization, attending a dog or cat show, attending a pet expo, visiting a pet store, or some other pre-approved activity (only 1 visit per facility will be counted). To obtain extra credit you must write a short description of what you saw, how it relates to our class, and what your thoughts are about it. Each experience is worth 1 point. Photos are welcome. Submit the file as a Word document to the "Extra Credit" assignment page. All extra credit is due by the last day of regular classes.

Grading Policy

I will do my best to have your assignments graded within one week.

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value
Weekly Discussions (13; lowest grade dropped) 36
Virtual Pet Assignments (4) 29
Quizzes (7; lowest grade dropped) 90
Assignments (Study Design) 15
Final Project (2) 30
TOTAL: 200
Extra Credit 2

The final course grade will then be determined according to the following table.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 93%
A- < 93% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 83%
B- < 83% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Undergraduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian. It is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

Getting Help With Canvas Courses

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Support Services

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Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

Login Policy

Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Course Availability

Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20, G-9 Procedures, and the Code of Conduct).

Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

Educational Equity Statement

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity on the Bias Response page.

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Copyright Notice

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor's express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD40, Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services, addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University's Code of Conduct, and/or liable under federal and state laws.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The University offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients' cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Accommodations for Persons With Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources page.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

Course Availability

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