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Pet Visitation, Service Animals and Therapy Dogs

QHC   Policy No: 2.3.4
Title: Accessibility - Pet Visitation, Service Animals and Therapy Dogs Original Issue Date: January 21, 2010
Manual: Administration  
Department: Corporate Review / Revision Date(s): 01/21/2010
Issued By:    
Approved By: SAC  

1. Policy

Pet visitation at Quinte Health Care will be facilitated where possible. In the interest of patient safety, staff safety and infection control requirements, restrictions are necessary when bringing animals into the hospital for visits. The purpose of this policy is to provide guidelines to bringing a pet belonging to a patient onto the hospital premises for the purpose of visiting a patient. Pets are not allowed in the following areas of the hospital:

  • Food preparation and public food services area
  • Medication storage/preparation areas
  • Isolation rooms
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Procedure areas (operating room, labour/delivery, pre/post-op recovery areas)
  • In a room where there is an immunosupressed patient

In order for an animal to enter the hospital the animal shall be clean, healthy, well-groomed, and free of parasites and have up-to-date vaccinations. If there is any concern, a certificate from a Veterinarian will be requested.

Note: Staff or volunteers are not permitted to bring their pet(s) onto hospital premises outside of the above mentioned circumstances.

Exception to this Section: This section does not apply to Service Animals (see Section B) or to the Therapy Dog Program (see Section C).

2. Purpose

Quinte Health Care recognizes the value and therapeutic benefit of pet visitation and animal therapy. Objectives of these visits include: to alleviate loneliness and stress for patients by providing opportunities to maintain meaningful relationships with their pets; to provide stimulus for the withdrawn or anxious patient through contact with their pet on a reasonably regular basis; and to alleviate a patient's concern for a pet's well being by providing contact through visiting arrangements. This policy provides direction when these situations occur.

3. Procedure

  1. The request for pet visitation to a patient care unit must be directed to the Director/Manager or his/her delegate to determine appropriateness, time, place and length of visit. No animal younger than six months shall visit. One animal is permitted per visit.
  2. The person bringing the animal to the unit is responsible for the animal's actions at all times.
  3. Animals shall be kept on a short leash or in a cage at all times. No reptiles, birds or rodents are allowed. Pets shall be taken directly to the patient they are visiting and will exit immediately after.
  4. If the patient is in a private room, the visitor and pet may go directly into the room, except in the circumstances listed in the policy statement above.
  5. If the patient is in a multiple bed unit, the pet will be allowed to accompany the visitor unless a medical reason contraindicates that visit. For example, the illness type of the patient or of the other patients in the room, i.e. allergies, infection or fear of pets.
  6. If the visit is still desired by the patient, then the patient should be brought to a private area and the visitor and pet may visit there.
  7. If there are concerns about allergies of care providers, or other patients who will occupy the visitation area, the manager/delegate is to contact the housekeeping department to discuss cleaning procedures or an alternate area for the visitation (i.e. an area that is easily wiped down).
  8. All persons who touch/handle the animal shall wash their hands following contact with the animal.
  9. If an elimination accident should occur, the individual who has escorted the pet will be given gloves, paper towels, and a plastic bag to clean up the urine/feces. Housekeeping will then be contacted to mop up the floor.
  10. No food for the pet should be brought into the hospital.

Recording & Reporting


  • Arrangements for the visit shall be recorded on the Care Plan.
  • Results of the visit are to be recorded in the patient's health record, under a focus note.
  • Adverse incidents related to the patient or visitor should be reported on the HIRS report and sent to the Coordinator of Risk and Patient Concerns.
  • Adverse incidents involving staff should be documented as per Policy 8.1 on an Employee Incident Report.

Section B: Service Animals

1. Policy

If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, Quinte Health Care (QHC) will permit the person to enter the premises with the animal and keep it with him or her, unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises. If the service animal or guide dog is excluded by law from the premises, QHC will look to other available measures to enable the person with a disability to obtain, use or benefit from QHC's services. Service animals are permitted in areas commonly accessed by the public. A patient accompanied by a service animal is not required to disclose the nature of their disability.

For the purpose of safety and infection control requirements service animals will not be permitted in the following areas of the hospital:

  • Food preparation areas
  • Medication storage/preparation areas
  • Clean isolation rooms
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Procedure areas (operating room, labour/delivery, pre/post-op recovery areas)
  • In a room where there is a immunosupressed patient

Exceptions will be considered as required.


Service animals are animals specifically trained to assist people with disabilities in their activities of independent living (i.e. Guide dogs for those requiring support for safe mobility). Service animals are not considered to be pets but rather an auxiliary aid similar to the use of a cane, crutch or wheelchair. Service animals sometimes are called assistance animals.

Examples of service animals include:

  • A guide animal, trained for individuals who are visually impaired and/or blind.
  • A hearing animal, trained to alert a person with significant hearing loss or who is deaf when a sound occurs.
  • Special skills animals, trained to assist a person who has a mobility or health disability. Duties may include carrying, fetching, opening doors, ringing doorbells, activating elevator buttons, steadying a person while walking, helping a person up after a fall, emotional support, etc.
  • A seizure response animal, trained to assist a person with a seizure disorder. The animal's service depends on the person's needs. The animal may go for help, or may stand guard over the person during a seizure.
  • A companion animal or emotional support animal that assists persons with psychological disabilities.

2. Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to recognize Quinte Health Care's obligation to facilitate the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 (AODA), and all regulations pursuant to the Act.

3. Procedure

  1. The service animal must be supervised and the handler/designate must retain full control, and be responsible for the care of the animal at all times.
  2. All owners of service animals must maintain the appropriate certification and documentation to support the role of the service animal.
  3. Where the animal is excluded from a prohibited area, an alternate, safe location will be offered where the service animal can wait, if the person is able to be separated from the animal while obtaining the service. Assistance will be offered to the person with a disability while he or she is separated from the service animal.

4. Awareness

QHC staff should be aware of the following while caring for a patient who is accompanied by a service animal:

  • Allow a service animal to accompany the patient at all times and everywhere on the property except where animals are specifically prohibited.
  • Do not pet or touch a service animal. Petting a service animal when the animal is working distracts the animal from the task at hand.
  • Do not feed a service animal. The service animal may have specific dietary requirements.
  • Do not deliberately startle a service animal. Do not separate or attempt to separate a patient from her or his service animal. Avoid making noises at the animal (barking, whistling, etc.).
  • Converse with the owner/handler, not the animal. Avoid eye contact with the animal.
  • Avoid initiating conversation about the service animal, the patient's disabilities or other service animals one has known. If you are curious you may ask if the patient/handler would like to discuss it, but be aware that many persons with disabilities do not care to share personal details.
  • Remember, not all disabilities are visible. The nature of the person's disability is a private matter, and you are not entitled to inquire for details.
  • Service animals may wear specialized identifiable harnesses and vests. All service animals/users have identification cards.

Section C - Therapy Dogs

1. Policy

Therapy Dog Programs bring comfort, joy and companionship and patients reap the benefits of unconditional love associated with Therapy Dogs visits. It has been demonstrated that the petting, affection, and regular visitation of a dog can be beneficial to hospitalized patients ( St. John's Ambulance Therapy Dogs Services Program, 2007, Delta Society, 2009). Quinte Health Care is committed to providing Therapy Dog Services to patients that request this service. This request may be submitted by the patient, his/her family or substitute decision maker. Therapy dogs are not allowed in the following areas of the hospital:

  • Food preparation and public food services area
  • Medication storage/preparation areas
  • Isolation rooms
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Procedure areas (operating room, labour/delivery, pre/post-op recovery areas)
  • In a room where there is an immunosupressed patient

2. Purpose

This policy is in place to ensure quality and safety to Therapy Dog service recipients, as well as patients, visitors and staff associated with the Therapy Dog service.

3. Procedure

  1. Provision of Therapy Dogs programs must be consistent with those same standards and guidelines as set out for Pet Visitation, per this policy, Section A: Pet Visitation.
  2. All dogs must have been tested for temperament and therapeutic qualities, and must be annually certified by their veterinarians as being up-to-date on all required vaccinations and in good general health. It is a requirement of the program that all dogs must be clean and thoroughly groomed before each visit.
  3. The owner of a Therapy Dog must provide certification documents to prove that the dog has gone through one of two programs: St. John Ambulance or the Canadian Canine Association.

Appendices and References:

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005

Communicable Disease Control (CD) 

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Delta Society

St. John's Ambulance

QHC Accessibility Policy 2009