There are no specific laws about animals on mental health or any wards. In fact the only restriction on where animals can be is the same as for all animals – they’re not allowed in ‘food preparation’ areas. So pets on wards are subject to the considerations that staff are already very familiar with – health and safety at work (eg having a dog on a lead minimises risk of people tripping over them), infection control etc. More on infection control below! As always, careful risk assessment identifies potential tricky stuff and enables creative, caring solutions.
Although there are only very vague health and safety requirements in relation to humans, there are more specific laws to protect animals. The primary legislation is The Animal Welfare Act 2006 which makes ‘owners and keepers’ responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met.
These include the need:
- for a suitable environment (place to live)
- for a suitable diet
- to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- to be housed with or apart from other animals (if applicable)
- to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease
These are all, of course, very important considerations for having a pet on the ward and we cover the main issues throughout this site.