Pawprints, supported by PetSmart Charities

Pawprints, supported by PetSmart Charities, is the Boston Children’s Hospital’s animal assisted visitation program. Pawprints provides patients and their families with a healthy diversion from the usual hospital routine and an opportunity for social interaction.

Special thanks to the Boston Children's League for their generosity in helping support Pawprints.

Who can have a visit from a dog?

Patients can have a visit if they meet specific criteria. On an inpatient unit, patients require signed consent from a member of their medical team and parent/guardian. Outpatient visits require signed consent from a parent/guardian. 

Where do dogs visit?

Dog/handler teams visit most inpatient units, certain outpatient clinic areas, the emergency department and other designated areas of the hospital, as well as some of the hospital's satellite locations.

How does a patient schedule a dog visit?

Child Life Specialists, Recreational Therapists and Hale Family Center for Families staff can help to schedule a visit. 

Paws + Read

Watch this video to learn more about Paws & Read, a canine-assisted literacy program within the Pawprints Program, at Boston Children’s Hospital.  

What happens during a dog visit?

Some dogs visit patient rooms and others visit clinic waiting rooms and other designated spaces like the Hale Family Center for Families. Once a visit is scheduled, the patient decides how he or she would like to interact with the dog. Dogs may sit on the floor, a chair or on a clean sheet on the patient’s bed. The patient may pet, talk to or watch the dog. Siblings and other family members are encouraged to interact with the dog, as well.

How long are the visits?

The length of each visit varies depending on the number of patients scheduled for a visit that day, the preferences of each patient and any health care needs. Visits typically last between 5 and 10 minutes.

Who owns the dogs and where do they live?

The dogs belong to and live with their owner/handler who is a hospital volunteer from the community.

Can my dog and/or other pet visit me in the hospital?

Only service dogs and registered therapy dogs, through the Pawprints Program, are permitted in the hospital. This protects the health and safety of patients, families, and staff.