AAVMC offers guidelines on service dogs at teaching hospitals

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The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges has created a series of guidelines on how service dogs should be handled in veterinary teaching hospitals run by member institutions.

The document, “AAVMC Guidelines for Service Animal Access to Veterinary Teaching Facilities,” was developed by a working group established by the AAVMC board of directors and published this August.

The guidelines offer definitions to distinguish between service animals and emotional support animals, outline the legal framework covering these animals, and make recommendations for professional conduct toward and accommodation of service animals at veterinary teaching hospitals.

In human health care settings, according to the guidelines, areas not open to the public and areas in which protective attire is required are usually recognized to have restricted access to service animals. In veterinary settings, it may be necessary to restrict service animals from examination rooms where patients are being evaluated or treated, procedure rooms where patients are undergoing diagnostic procedures or treatment, limited-access areas that require greater-than-general infection control measures, patient units housing immunosuppressed patients or patients that need to be in isolation, large animal settings, in-patient housing and boarding areas, and intensive care units.

The document states that best practices for reducing the risk of disease transmission or other risks to patients also include ensuring that service animals are fully vaccinated and dewormed against the most likely pathogens; are maintained on appropriate flea and tick control; undergo a thorough health screening prior to accessing the veterinary teaching hospital; are licensed and wearing appropriate rabies tags for the municipality involved; are harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or an individual’s disability prevents using these devices; are not fed raw diets; and are appropriately bathed, groomed, and housebroken.

The guidelines are available at the AAVMC website.