Legal situation


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

NHS Forth Valley have this helpful information in their policy document.


This policy informs staff of their legislative requirements relating to the

Disability Discrimination Act (2005 amended). The Act states that anyone who provides services, goods or facilities to the public cannot refuse to provide their service to a disabled person for a reason relating to that person’s disability.  It also encourages services to be proactive in creating an inclusive approach and where appropriate “more favourable treatment” can be provided to a disabled person.

The policy also informs staff of their legislative requirements relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974); Public Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations (1998), Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1992) and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (2002) which requires the provision of a safe environment for service users and staff.

There is a balance to be struck in complying with all legislation and therefore each situation will require to be risk assessed by taking into consideration many and variable factors by the person in charge of each clinical area.  Each clinical area should ensure that local guidelines are available to manage the presence of an assistance, therapy or pet animal.

Further advice may be obtained by contacting the Infection Control or Disability Team.

These are all, of course, very important considerations for having a pet on the ward and we cover the main issues throughout this site.