Specific Information for Health Care Facilities

Pet Partner teams often begin their volunteer service by visiting healthcare facilities. They are drawn perhaps because they know of a relative who has enjoyed pet visits in a hospital or nursing home or perhaps they have received visits.

Health care facilities come in all sizes and shapes and our handlers are encouraged to visit first without their animal to make sure it is a good fit for the facility and the team.  All teams are qualified for either predictable environment/encounters or complex environment/encounters. Health care facilities are unique in that they have quite a mixture of possible encounters!

Most pet visits will be informal interactions also known as animal-assisted activities rather than animal assisted therapy.  For information about the benefits of and differences between Animal Assisted Activities and Animal Assisted Therapy, please use the following link:

Facilities Brochure

Suggestions for successful animal visitation programs include the following:

Determine the Facility’s Goals

Where do you want teams to visit? Where will visiting teams have the most impact? Is there a target client group you’d like to receive visits, such as those experiencing long stays or those who need motivation to participate in treatment?  What level of staff involvement will be possible? Are you planning to incorporate animals as part of a therapeutic treatment, such as physical therapy, or occupational therapy?

As mentioned, all Pet Partner teams are qualified as suitable for either predictable or complex environments. Environments are judged on a combination of staff involvement and activity level. By considering where you would like visits to occur and what kind of staff involvement will be possible, you can set up volunteer teams and the clients for success.

Establish Guidelines

Begin by reviewing the Pet Partners policies and procedures that all teams abide by. This will familiarize you with the expectations required of volunteers. Based on the unique needs of your facility, you’ll need to establish some additional guidelines and procedures for your visiting animal program. Your facility may also have additional volunteer requirements.

For example:

  • Who will be the point person for your therapy animal team volunteers?
  • What site specific orientation will they need?
  • What area of the grounds can animals use for breaks?
  • Are there additional requirements for your facility, such as completing a background check or additional health screenings you need to communicate to volunteers?
  • How will you determine who should receive visits?
  • How will you screen clients for concerns such as allergies or fear of animals?
  • Where will visits occur? Individually or in group settings?

In the case that both Pet Partners and the facility have a policy on the same topic, the more conservative of the two shall apply. Facilities should make sure the handler knows which protocol to follow.

Other Visiting Animals

If your facility allows staff pets or family pets to visit, ElderPet strongly suggests you have a registration process in place for those animals as well, due to liability issues.  In addition, as a courtesy to any Pet Partner volunteer teams, they should be informed that there may be other animals on the premises. The link below provides sample forms for your use.

Visiting Animals


If your facility would like to set up a simple pet visiting program or if you wish to have your current program assessed, ElderPet board members would be happy to arrange a consultation at no charge.

In addition, if your facility would like explore establishing a robust, professionally-directed Animal Assisted Therapy program, one of our advisory board members, an occupational therapist with human-animal interventions experience, will be happy to consult with your professional staff about what is needed as far as environment, population and goals for the program.

If your facility is interested in a consultation, please email elderpet@gmail.com and put "Facility Consultation" in the subject line and explain what you are looking for.