Julie Casey MSW, RSW

Health & Safety

Therapy Animals are diapered

or have their excrement contained by other means

Nourishing Hearts

Sweet Pea visiting King's University College "Wellness Fun Fair" at Western. April 2016

Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines For Animals In Facilities
Objectives: These guidelines are to reduce the risk of zoonosis or animal-human disease transmission during animal assisted therapy programs.
Applicability:  This guideline applies to all species of animals and all employees, students, volunteers, and other persons acting on behalf of Nourishing Hearts.

​​1. General Guidelines
1.1 Animals are to be excluded from:

  • Food preparation areas
  • Medication preparation areas
  • Operating Room (OR) including recovery areas
  • Medical Device Reprocessing (MDR), Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging (DI) areas
  • Critical Care areas including ICU
  • Neonatal nurseries
  • Client//resident bathrooms
  • Immunosuppressed or neutropenic patients* (*animal visitation may be considered in consultation with the care provider team for chronic/palliative patients)

1.2 Animals in health care are to be:

  • In good health having been examined annually by a licensed Veterinarian and free of diseases. Rabies vaccinations current and available. Other vaccinations determined by the veterinarian in the best interest of the animal based on lifestyle, risk assessment and whom the animal will be in contact with. The therapist shall be responsible for making available up to date veterinarian and vaccination records when their pet visits a facility.
  • Animals fed a raw meat diets including poultry, dehydrated animal products or like pig ears are excluded from visiting for 90 days.
  • Animals are to be immediately removed from the facility if they appear ill or sick during visit.

1.3 Animals with any of the following condition(s) are excluded from visiting for 1 week following the resolution of:

  • Diarrhea (if animal has been diagnosed with Clostridium difficile, Salmonella, and Giardia (veterinary documentation should be provided to show animal has been treated)
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing, coughing
  • Antimicrobial, immunosuppressive therapy
  • Skin infections both open and closed, ear infections, skin and soft tissue infections. Suspend visitation until veterinary documentation is provided to show the treated animal is free of MRSA.
  • Fleas, ticks, external or internal parasites (including worms)

1.4 Only domesticated animals are permitted in facilities. The following are excluded:

  • Reptiles and amphibians All rodents, including hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and hedgehogs
  • Animals that have not been litter trained or when measures cannot be taken to prevent exposure to animal’s excrement.
  • Zoo animals, exotic mammals and petting zoo animals.

1.5 Visits inside Client/resident rooms will be conducted only with explicit resident and roommate(s) permission before entering room.
1.6 Licking should be prevented as well as “shaking paws” even if paws are clean as floors may be contaminated.
1.7 All therapy animals in facilities must be approved by site management or designate. Facilities are responsible for documenting and tracking animals based on facility policy.

2. If an animal bites or scratches:

  • Nursing staff are to be alerted immediately to ensure appropriate treatment is given and documentation occurs.

3. Animal related hygiene practices
3.1 Hand hygiene must be performed as per facility policy and procedure by all who have contact with animals. Client/residents should be assisted with hand hygiene as needed.

  • Client/residents: Before AND after animal contact
  • Therapist: Between rooms
  • Therapist is to carry alcohol based hand sanatizer.
  • After cleaning up pet excrement

3.2 Where possible, animals are permitted on beds and laps with a disposable or washable waterproof barrier, such as a soaker pad or blue liner pad, should be placed between their clothes/blankets and the animal.

  • Any furniture that animals have been permitted on (chairs, benches etc) need to be routinely cleaned and disinfected following facility procedures with facility approved cleaner.

3.3 Animals and therapist are to have no contact with medical equipment, invasive devices, wounds, dressing or bandages.
3.4 Visitation of clients/residents under additional precautions is to be done only in consultation with Infection Prevention and Control or designate.
3.5 No visitation when patient is eating or undergoing medical procedure.

3.6 Any mess, including excrement, generated by the animal is the responsibility of the handler to clean up immediately.

  • Facilities may supply clean-up materials as necessary. 

4. Therapy Animal

  • Animals must follow the general guidelines under sections 1, 2 and 3 of this document for visiting facility.
  • If animals are not house trained, animals are to be diapered or other excrement containment for indoor settings
  • Therapist assumes responsibility and accompanies the animal during entire session.

5. Outbreaks or Ongoing Micro-organism Transmission

  • When there is known, suspected or ongoing micro-organism transmission, facility may make additional recommendations for restricting animal access to the facility.


Writing, Panel of the Working Group, Lefebvre, S. L., Golab, G. C., Christensen, E., Castrodale, L., Aureden, K., ….Weese, J. S. (2008). Guidelines for animal-assisted interventions in health care facilities. AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control, 36(2), 78-85.

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