Pets Are Now Allowed On This Hospital’s Visitors List

Anyone who’s owned a pet knows that a tail wag or a nose nuzzle can transform a terrible day into a better one.

It’s what motivated Donna Jenkins to start Zachary’s Paws for Healing, the organization behind a new pilot program at a Canadian hospital that allows patients to receive visits from their own furry loved ones.

Jenkins began the group as a legacy for her nephew, Zachary Noble. Noble was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 23 years old, and Jenkins retired from her job as a human resources professional to provide full-time care. Noble, who was a major proponent of companion pet visits, passed away in 2014. But while he was sick in the hospital, he longed to see his dogs, and staff made an exception to allow him to spend time with one of his pets.

Working with medical staff, infection control workers and volunteer services, Jenkins and her team have created their pilot program at Juravinski Hospital in Ontario, Canada, the same hospital that allowed Noble to visit with his dog.

Juravinksi has since permitted 25 four-legged visitors to come to its intensive care unit. While other programs have used animals to brighten the lives of people in hospitals (even miniature horses have made it into clinics!), Zachary’s is the first program in Canada that deals with patients’ personal companion pets.

Such pets are often prohibited from the hospital due to the transmission of possible infections and other potential risks, but working with with Zachary’s ensures pets can visit safely, hospital administrators said. Zachary’s staff first cleans the animals before bringing them into the hospital, and the pets are transferred in covered cages and don’t come into contact with any patients other than their owners.

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