Date of Graduation

Summer 2020


Master of Science in Child Life Studies


Childhood Education and Family Studies

Committee Chair

Denise Cunningham


Handlers of therapy and/or facility dogs working within hospital settings have experienced various barriers and challenges within their practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Animal-assisted interventions, specifically therapeutic working dogs, are a valued source of support to individuals, communities, hospital settings, and disaster sites during times of community distress. The purpose of this study was to identify barriers and solutions to the continued use of animal-assisted therapeutic interventions in support of patients and families within the hospital setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. This researcher’s position within the research is the knowledge and experience of being a facility dog handler within the hospital setting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualitative research was performed utilizing an investigator written questionnaire. Participants were chosen from purposeful sampling of dog handler teams to recognize the impact that this global crisis has made particularly to the practice of the dog and handler teams within health care settings. Results of the study identified barriers and solutions to continuing animal-assisted therapeutic interventions during disease outbreak. Qualitative research results also described perspectives of facility dog handlers in regard to facility dog absence and its impact on patient care interventions and decreased staff morale. The geographical response to the utilization of facility dogs during the COVID-19 pandemic was also examined and suggested more restricted responses were experienced in regions of widespread community infection of the novel virus. Suggestions for future practice in continuing animal-assisted therapeutic interventions during times of disease outbreak include a review of hygiene practices, equipment use, and future research on effectiveness of implementation.


facility dog, animal-assisted therapeutic intervention, COVID-19 pandemic, disease outbreak, community distress, therapy dog, staff morale, pediatric, patient care, Child Life Specialist

Subject Categories

Animal-Assisted Therapy | Animal Diseases | Animals | Animal Studies | Child Psychology | Community Health | Developmental Psychology | Health Psychology | Infectious Disease | Medical Education | Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene | Other Medical Sciences | Other Mental and Social Health | Patient Safety | Pediatrics | Virus Diseases


© Alicia Cesare

Open Access