Hounds at the Hospital, Cats at the Clinic: Challenges Associated with Service Animals and Animal-Assisted Interventions in Healthcare Facilities

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University of Hawai'i Law Review






Service and companion animals are an important part of many people’s lives. These animals can continue to play a role when individuals are undergoing medical treatment. An increasing number of people are partnering with service animals to assist with their disabilities. It is also common to have animal-assisted interventions as part of hospital programs. This Article considers various issues that can arise when animals are allowed in healthcare facilities.

The Article sets forth the current Americans with Disabilities Act regulations, analyzes issues relating to the definition of public accommodation, and discusses other issues relating to service animals. Because of the growing number of veterans utilizing service animals, issues governing the use of service animals in medical facilities operated by the Department of Defense and Department of Veteran’s Affairs are also scrutinized. The Article continues by exploring other uses of animals by these entities, including pet visitation programs. It highlights some of the risks associated with having animals on these types of premises, including injuries or the transmission of pathogens, and the mitigation of these risks. The Article concludes with recommendations on how healthcare facilities should address these situations.