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Children's Hospital Boston receives grant for its dog visitation program

Tucker is a Westie who is certified to visit pediatric patients at Children's Hospital Boston as part of its Pawprints program.
Tucker is a Westie who is certified to visit pediatric patients at Children's Hospital Boston as part of its Pawprints program.Chidren's Hospital Boston

The Pet Care Trust has just announced that it has awarded a $5000 grant to Children's Hospital Boston, to support the hospital's "Pawprints" program, through which teams of specially certified therapy dogs and their handlers make twice-monthly visits to children in the pediatric units.

The grant will support a research project entitled, "Parent and Child Perspectives on Dog Visitation in a Pediatric Hospital." Children's Hospital Boston's dog visitation program has been operating successfully since 2003. According to Laura Veit, a research associate working on the project, "The dogs aren't judgmental--they don't care what's going on with the children and what they look like, or what might be different."

Hospitalized children can qualify for a dog visit if they meet certain health criteria (such as no allergies or asthma), and if the canine companionship is approved by both their parent or guardian and the attending physician. Dogs are restricted from visiting the ICU.

There are typically 10 or 12 volunteer dog therapy teams available to visit up to 10 children on a particular day at Children's Hospital Boston. Among the current canines who are certified for the program are Bert, a deaf Yellow Labrador Retriever who knows sign language; Brandy, a Westie/Cairn Terrier cross; Copley, a Sheltie; Karma, a Golden Doodle; Midnight, a retired racing Greyhound; Pal, a Husky/Basset Hound cross; Princess, a Rottweiler; Tucker, a West Highland White Terrier; and another Tucker, an English Cream Labrador Retriever.

Ms. Veit explains that as part of the Pet Care Trust-funded research project, she and her associates will be videotaping therapeutic dog visits with almost 60 patient participants. The goal, she says, is to "prove to the hospital that what we do really does help."

The Pet Care Trust is a nonprofit, charitable foundation whose mission is to promote the humane and responsible care and treatment of companion animals, and to support the human-animal bond. It provides funding for pet research, special projects, and education programs.

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