More hospitals open doors to family pet visits

More U.S. hospitals are expanding their visitation programs to include four-legged family members. Going beyond trained therapy dog visits, Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., has joined the growing the trend to allow patients to visit with family pets, USA Today reported.

"We can fill that gap in children's lives and help them recover by bringing one of their family members--their dogs--to them,"Wolfson President Michael Aubin told the newspaper.

The hospital's Healing Paws program requires dogs be at least 12 weeks old, potty trained, vaccinated and have a health certificate from a veterinarian that ensure the dog's good health, the article noted.

Also acknowledging that some people consider their pets family members, policies at Texas Children's Hospital allows patients' own pets to visit them during their stay. "When there is a patient in the hospital that will be here for a significant amount of time, we think it is important for them to have their entire family here," Texas Children's Hospital Assistant Director of Child Life and Social Work Jamie Snow told ABC News, FierceHealthcare previously reported.  

Despite programs at Methodist Hospital in Texas and the Christiana Care Health System in Delaware, family pet visitation programs are harder to implement at hospitals due to infection risks, noise, medical and legal restrictions, and needed time and resources, USA Today noted.

"But we need research that connects the dots and puts sound policies and procedures in place. Doctors are trying to treat their patients; they don't have time to look up the health benefits of puppies," Emily Patterson, an animal welfare scientist of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told USA Today.

For more:
- read the USA Today article