Visiting Hours Are Open For Pets At This Canadian Hospital

Mary Simpson
by Mary Simpson
Pets make us feel better when we’re feeling ill. And Zachary’s Paws for Healing is harnessing that special gift for patients at Juravinski Hospital in Ontario.

For those of us who own pets, we’ve always known that a quick dose of “doggie” can do wonders when we’re feeling under the weather. A quick nuzzle, a sympathetic lick or a toy placed gently on our lap encourages us to respond back and momentarily step away from whatever it is that ails us.

But what about those that are suffering from much more than a cold or flu bug? What about those who have been hospitalized with life-threatening illnesses and been separated from their homes, families and pets.

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Thanks to Canadian Donna Jenkins, the loss of pet comfort may be a thing of the past. Jenkins began her Zachary’s Paws for Healing (ZPH) initiative after losing her nephew to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Zachary Noble was a big supporter of companion pet visits and he longed to see his pooches while hospitalized. Caring staff made it happen and he was permitted the visits.

Fast forward two years and ZPH is now spear-heading a new pilot program at a Canadian hospital that allows patients to receive visits from their own furry loved ones. Juravinski Hospital in Ontario is the same hospital that found a way to make Noble’s visit with his pooch possible, so you just have to know they’re up for the challenge.

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Make no mistake; this isn’t about sneaking FiFi in under your jacket when no one is looking. This is serious stuff that required Jenkins to work with medical staff, infection control workers and volunteer services to develop a series of policies and procedures. Because pets are typically prohibited from hospital settings due to possible transmission of bacteria or infection, the strict procedures had to be established and put in place to ensure all patients were safeguarded from potential health issues.

Prior to any pet being granted permission for a hospital visit, ZPH evaluates the safety of everyone involved – including the animals. If it’s decided the environment is too stressful for the pooch or there are complications that would make the visitation risky, volunteers will halt the process. For those lucky ones that pass muster, upon arrival the staff cleans the animal and then transports him in a covered cage so as not to come into contact with patients other than his/her owner.

When writing these procedures Jenkins borrowed a page from the University of Iowa Medical Center, the University of Maryland and Paws Houston, all of which facilitate patients seeing their pets. Because the University of Maryland’s pet program has been around since 2008 and there are now more than a dozen programs and hospitals in the U.S. that make pet visitations possible, Jenkins had a wealth of information to draw from.

Yet in spite of these precedents, breaking down those institutional barriers was not as easy as one might think. Jenkins advises that hospitals often have pet visitation policies in place that are so complex and cumbersome for staff to implement on a regular basis that they are rarely utilized. In the end, the patient loses out and that’s why Jenkins decided to cut through the red tape. You see ZPH has already worked out all the administrative kinks and the program takes care of the paperwork making it much easier for staff to check off the policy adherence boxes.

North of the border I’m delighted to advise that Juravinksi Hospital has now hit the 25 mark! Yes, 25 four-legged visitors have brightened the lives of their pet parents in the intensive care unit under what is the first program in Canada to deal with patients’ personal companion pets (versus using external therapy animals).

Jenkins confirms that she and her team are being solicited every day from hospitals across Canada and are building kits based on Juravinksi’s success that will allow other facilities to build programs of their own.

[Source: Huffington Post]

Mary Simpson
Mary Simpson

Sharing space with three seriously judgy Schnoodles and a feline who prefers to be left alone. #LivingMyBestLife

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