Although there are no national guidelines in the UK, in America The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) has very helpful guidance for hospitals in relation to animals, including for animal therapy, particularly in relation to keeping patients safe from problems such as infections, bites and allergic reactions.
Religious and cultural considerations
People from some religious or cultural communities have particular concerns about some animals. For example, Jews and Muslims are forbidden from eating pig because pigs are regarded as unclean. For many, particularly less religious/observant Jews and Muslims, this doesn’t extend to simply being around pigs, but for many any contact is unwelcome or even aversive and upsetting. A more common issue is with dogs which many Muslims regard as ‘haraam’ (forbidden.) It’s so problematic generalising about any issue in any religion but it’s important to be aware that while many Muslim families adoringly share their homes and lives with dogs, others find it totally unacceptable even to be in the same room as a dog. There’s a very helpful article here which includes these points (which, it must be said, are still contentious):
- It is NOT haraam to own a dog, though it is not hygienic to keep a dog in the house.
- It is NOT haraam to touch a dog or any other animal. If the saliva of a dog touches you or any part of your clothing, then it is required of you to wash the body part touched and the item of clothing touched by the dog’s mouth or snout.
Please see the assistance dogs page for issues about guide dogs and religious considerations.