Visits from loved ones in the hospital can greatly improve the mood of patients and assist in their recovery, but most hospitals restrict visitors to the human kind. Although many hospitals have pet therapy programs that use trained dogs, most do not allow visits by family pets.
A few hospitals are bucking that trend, allowing patients’ own dogs and cats to visit under certain conditions.
Among them is North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, which allows personal pets to stay around the clock with patients in its palliative care unit. Another Long Island facility, the Hospice Inn, also allows pets, and a few other hospitals around the country have adopted similar policies.
The policies vary, but they generally require a doctor’s order and an attestation from a veterinarian that the pet is up to date on shots and otherwise healthy. Most hospitals require dogs to be on a leash and cats to be taken in and out by carrier.
Hospital officials who have studied the issue say that the relatively mild risks, such as that of animals transmitting bacteria, are outweighed by the benefits, such as comfort and reduced stress for patients.