A new Expert Guidance Document has been released by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology (SHEA) and published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

R Murthy, G Bearman, S Brown, K Bryant, R Chinn, A Hewlett, BG George, EJC Goldstein, G Holzmann-Pazgal, ME Rupp, T Wiemken, JS Weese, DJ Weber. Animals in Healthcare Facilities: Recommendations to Minimize Potential Risks. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2015

 The guidance document covers 4 main areas

  • Animal assisted activities (aka pet therapy, hospital visitation)
  • Service animals
  • Research animals in healthcare facilities
  • Personal pet visitation

The document provides recommendations for practices to reduce the risk of animal-associated diseases from these activities. There’s also some introductory survey information that highlights a few reasons why this guidance is important.

  • Pet therapy was allowed at 89% of surveyed US hospitals.
  • Personal pet visitation was permitted at 40%.
  • Research animals were present in 35%.
  • Many hospitals that allowed animals had no policy covering their activities.
  • All facilities that allowed pet therapy permitted dogs. 21% also allowed cats, 5% miniature horses and 2% primates (ugh!).
  • A few US facilities, including a Veteran’s Hospital, indicated that they did not allow service animals, something that contravenes the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This should be required reading for anyone involved in hospital administration, hospital infection control or pet therapy programs.