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About Pawprints

Pawprints, supported by the Hale Family Center for Families and Child Life Services, is the Boston Children’s Hospital’s animal assisted activity program. Pawprints provides patients and their families with a healthy diversion from the usual hospital routine and an opportunity for social interaction.

Frequently asked questions

Who can have a visit from a dog?

Patients can have a visit if they meet specific criteria. On an inpatient unit, patients require a signed release from a member of their medical team and their parent or guardian. Outpatient visits require verbal consent from a parent or guardian and, in some cases, a signed release form.

Where do dogs visit?

Dogs visit most inpatient units, several 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 the staff at the Hale Family Center for Families can help schedule a visit.

What happens during a dog visit?

Some dogs visit patient rooms. Others visit clinic waiting rooms and designated spaces in the hospital like the Hale Family Center for Families. Once a visit is scheduled, the patient decides how they want 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 also encouraged to interact with the dog.

How long are the visits?

Visits typically last between five and 10 minutes, but the length of each visit varies. When planning visits, we consider the health and wellbeing of all involved, including the dog.

Who owns the dogs and where do they live?

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

Can my dog or other pet visit in the hospital?

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

To learn more about our service animal policy, please download our Family Education Sheet: English | Arabic | Spanish

Meet our team

We have over 20 dogs available for visits, and we’re always looking for more. View videos to get to know each care dog on our team “paw”sonally!

Dog and handler application

This page offers information on requirements for care dogs and the application process.

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.

pawprints activity book

Activity book

Here's a chance to meet some of our "pawsome" team and learn about dogs in a fun and interactive way!