When Your Pet Can Visit

Ruth London, 74, was in the hospital with severe pneumonia. She was delirious and hallucinated that she was in jail. With the permission of a doctor on the unit, her husband brought the family Maltese, Delilah, to see if the pet could calm his wife down.


The hospital staff didn’t let Mr. London in at first, but eventually did after a call to the doctor. In the hospital room, the dog ran to Mrs. London’s side and nuzzled her hand. From that point on, she seemed to take a turn for the better.
It was a one-time deal at this particular hospital, and the “no pets” policy is in force at most hospitals across the country. But a few medical institutions have taken a different approach and opened their doors to patients’ own dogs and cats, letting them visit along with spouses, children and friends. For example, The University of Maryland Medical Center, Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital and several other hospitals now let family pets visit their owners, as long as certain requirements are met. A hospital in Long Island even allows pets to stay with patients around the clock.
Policies vary at the institutions that allow visits by patients’ pets, but many share some of the same requirements:

·         A doctor’s order allowing the family pet to visit;

·         An attestation from a veterinarian that the animal is healthy and up to date on all its shots;

·         Grooming within a day or so of a visit;

·         Dogs must be on a leash when they walk through hospital corridors and cats must be taken in and out of the institution in a carrier.

In the hospitals that allow pets, if an animal seems agitated or distressed when it comes into the hospital, staff members who meet the family and escort them to the patient’s room have the right to turn it away. If the patient shares a room with someone, that person must agree before a pet may visit. If someone has an open wound or an active infection, a visit from pets is discouraged.
Research on the value of personal pets visiting patients has found a relaxation response and reduction in blood pressure and levels of cortisol, a stress-related hormone, according to Dr. Sandra Barker, director of the center and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland.
What will happen to your pets if something happens to you?Unlike a Will, which has to wind through the probate process, a Pet Trustcan be created along with your living trust and should be designed to take effect immediately upon your death so that your beloved companion does not have to linger in a shelter while the courts cut through paperwork. To get started, you should meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Evan H. Farr, CELA.  After finding out more information, you can decide if a pet trust makes sense for you and your family. Then, you can work with TheFairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C. to include all of your pet’s needs and your wishes for your pet, and name a caretaker and a trustee for when the inevitable happens. Read our recent blogpost about Pet Trusts.
If you haven’t done so already, please call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation to plan for yourself and your loved ones, including your precious pet(s).

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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