Animal-assisted interventions: A national survey of health and safety policies in hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations

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HighlightsEldercare facilities, hospitals, and therapy animal organizations were surveyed.Health and safety policies for animal-assisted interventions (AAI) varied widely.Some AAI policies potentially compromise human and animal safety.In general, hospitals had stricter AAI requirements than eldercare facilities.Programs should institute recent AAI guidelines to ensure human and animal safety.BackgroundAnimal-assisted intervention (AAI) programs are increasing in popularity, but it is unknown to what extent therapy animal organizations that provide AAI and the hospitals and eldercare facilities they work with implement effective animal health and safety policies to ensure safety of both animals and humans. Our study objective was to survey hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations on their AAI policies and procedures.MethodsA survey of United States hospitals, eldercare facilities, and therapy animal organizations was administered to assess existing health and safety policies related to AAI programs.ResultsForty-five eldercare facilities, 45 hospitals, and 27 therapy animal organizations were surveyed. Health and safety policies varied widely and potentially compromised human and animal safety. For example, 70% of therapy animal organizations potentially put patients at risk by allowing therapy animals eating raw meat diets to visit facilities. In general, hospitals had stricter requirements than eldercare facilities.DiscussionThis information suggests that there are gaps between the policies of facilities and therapy animal organizations compared with recent guidelines for animal visitation in hospitals.ConclusionsFacilities with AAI programs need to review their policies to address recent AAI guidelines to ensure the safety of animals and humans involved.

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