Would you want your pet to visit you if you were in the hospital?
I’m not talking about the amazing comfort dogs who are currently in Boston, bringing solace to people on the street around the marathon location as well as visiting the injured at area hospitals.
No, I’m talking about the growing number of hospitals that allow personal pets in their patients’ rooms.
Many medical facilities allow visits from trained therapy animals, but until recently, they didn’t permit the patient’s actual pet to stop by.
But that’s changing, as some hospitals decide that the emotional benefits to patients outweigh the risks.
From The New York Times:
The University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore lets family pets visit their owners, so long as certain requirements are met, as does the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City; Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond; Rush University Medical Center in Chicago; two hospitals associated with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.; and more than a dozen other medical centers.
On Long Island, North Shore University Hospital allows personal pets to stay with patients around the clock in its 10-bed palliative care unit, as does Hospice Inn, a freestanding 18-bed hospice facility that’s part of North Shore-LIJ Health System.
There are rules, of course. A doctor has to approve the visit, and there has to be an attestation from a veterinarian that the animal is healthy and up to date on all its shots. Most animal visitors are dogs, and generally most institutions require that they be groomed within a day or so of a visit. They need to be on a leash while passing through hospital corridors; cats must be in a carrier.
Dogs and cats are typically the only two types of pet allowed, and for the most part, they cannot spend the night.
In general, hospitals have not reported any major problems.
From The Chicago Tribune:
The Rev. Susan Carole Roy, director of pastoral care services at the University of Maryland Medical Center, also reports no problems since the hospital started allowing animal companions in 2008.
“Our pets are an integral part of our everyday lives, and they share in our greatest joys and darkest hours,” said Roy. “For patients to be able to reconnect with their pets — even for a short period of time — can really be very meaningful. It allows them to get in touch with a part of their lives that is often lost when they become patients.”
However, there may be some exceptions. I wrote earlier this year about a pregnant woman in the UK who wanted her dog Barney beside her in the delivery room during the birthing process. After the two-hour birth, Barney, believed to be a yellow labrador, stayed alongside the woman, her partner and the midwife, until the family left with their newborn child.
Not everyone approved. Several nurses and doctors at the hospital expressed their disgust at the idea of a dog in the maternity ward.
Equally, not all pets are welcome. Rats, gerbils, tarantulas, snakes, have all been pets in my home at various times, thanks to my children, but I wouldn’t want them showing up at my sick bed.
What do you think? Should pets be allowed into hospitals to visit their sick owners?
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Photo Credit: Stanford Hospital & Clinics