No previous studies regarding either structured, strictly controlled pet visitation programmes in paediatric hospital wards or hospital staff attitudes towards them have been conducted in Australia. Information regarding these is essential in order to minimize problems during implementation of such programmes. The aim of the study was to analyse hospital staff perceptions regarding the introduction of a pet visitation programme in an acute paediatric medical ward prior to and following implementation of the programme and to compare attitudes between the various professional groups. The study consisted of two cross-sectional surveys. A total of 224 anonymous questionnaires were distributed to administrators, doctors, nursing staff and therapists 6 weeks before and 195 were distributed 12 weeks after the introduction of a pet visitation programme. Responses were received from 115 respondents (before the programme introduction) and 45 respondents (after the programme introduction). Prior to the introduction of the dog visitation programme, there were high staff expectations that the programme would distract children from their illness, relax children and that it was a worthwhile project for the hospital to undertake. Following implementation of the programme these expectations were strongly endorsed, in addition to the perception that the ward was a happier place, the work environment was more interesting and that nurses accepted the dogs. After implementation staff were less concerned about the possibility of dog bites and dogs doing damage to equipment. Allied health staff and non-clinical staff were more positive about the programme with respect to ward climate and acceptance than were doctors and nurses. We conclude that well-planned dog visitation programmes result in positive anticipation among staff and high levels of satisfaction following programme impact.
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