The Healing Paws program at Wolfson Children's Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla., and other programs like it allow family dogs to visit children who are undergoing long-term hospitalization. The dogs must be certified to be in good health by a veterinarian, and visits take place in a special area to minimize infection risks and noise disruptions. Spending time with animals confers benefits to humans, whether it's a therapy dog or a familiar pet, according to Dr. Emily Patterson-Kane, an AVMA animal welfare scientist. "When a trained therapy dog visits, it's like getting a strange person to perform music. It adds excitement to your day," said Dr. Patterson-Kane. "When your dear pet visits, it's like a friend is visiting you. It reconnects you with your community. You feel trusted and reassured."

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