What Are the Nursing Home Regulations for Dog Visitations?

Nursing home regulations for visiting dogs vary for individual facilities. While no federal regulations exist, many states have written regulations regarding visiting pets. Minor requirements may dictate only that the dog appear trained, friendly, clean and possess a current vaccination history, while others mandate that visiting dogs need to be currently registered therapy dogs or have proof that they have passed the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.

  1. Dogs Owned by Family, Friends and Staff

    • For privately owned nursing homes in states that do not require visiting dogs to be registered as therapy dogs, it is common to allow family members and friends of residents to bring well-mannered, sociable, healthy pets for short visits. At times the facility will dictate that only the related resident can be visited by the dog. Other facilities allow these pets to visit any resident who might encounter them, but not to enter private rooms without an invitation. Staff members of these facilities can often bring their dogs if they feel the general population can benefit from the visit. Visitations of these kinds may be limited if the facility has residential pets.

      Insurance is a factor here. Some facilities require you to cover these visits by adding a rider to your home owners policy, while others have you sign insurance waivers when you arrive. Most of the facilities require that you provide proof that the dog is up to date on vaccines appropriate for the geographic area and that the animal is well-mannered, clean, parasite-free and under vocal or on lead control during the visit.

    Canine Good Citizens

    • For well-mannered dog owners that live in areas without designated pet therapy programs, but don't have any relation to a nursing home resident, some facilities will allow dogs to visit if they show proof not only of current vaccinations, but also that they have passed the American Kennel Club CGC test. This is also an applicable requirement for known family, friend and staff dog visits in some facilities. The 10 section test is available to pure and mixed breed dogs and shows that owner and dog have a basic understanding of commands and that the dog can follow commands when in a public environment. The CGC certificate is awarded to dogs that pass the test. The CGC test is often a foundation requirement of organized pet therapy organizations. To learn more about the CGC program and test, visit the CGC program page on the American Kennel Club website.

    Registered Therapy Dogs

    • In states that post written requirements for visiting dogs, most allow only registered therapy dogs in medical or long-term care facilities. When it comes to therapy dog organizations, there are national and regional organizations. Each differ in their list of requirements and training necessary for certification. Some groups offer training and registration or visiting dogs or dogs that participate in Animal Assisted Activities (AAA) while others also train and certify dogs used in documented therapeutic programs. These dogs and owners reach a higher level of training to participate in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) programs.

      Delta Society Pet Partners Program and Therapy Dogs International are the most well known of the nationally recognized pet therapy organizations. A good example of regionally run pet therapy organization is Pets on Wheels that serves the state of Maryland.

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