Hospital managers have insisted that a dog allowed on to a maternity ward while its owner gave birth was there as a therapy aid, and not as a pet.
They said the pregnant woman was allowed to bring her black Labrador, Barney, into the delivery room at St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol because of his “calming presence”.
But a source said that there were concerns from some of the medical staff that hygiene standards in the delivery room were put at risk.
The charity Pets as Therapy (PAT), with whom the hospital claimed Barney is registered, said the incident was against their recommendations. The group said they do not work with the hospital and could not verify if the dog was registered with them.
The hospital said Barney regularly visits wards in his role as a therapy dog and approval had been sought from its infection control experts.
Sarah Windfeld, head of midwifery at the hospital, said:
“Barney is a certified Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog and with his owner regularly attends to patients in hospital.
“PAT dogs are examined and passed on health, temperament, suitability and stability grounds and patients can benefit from their calming presence.”
Ms Windfeld went on to say that the dog’s owner put in a request for Barney to be present when she gave birth, but as a therapy dog and not as a pet.
“Having first sought the approval of our infection control experts, we agreed to Barney sitting nearby in the delivery room,” she added. Ms Windfield said that thorough cleaning was done after the birth, as is usual practice at the hospital.
It is understood that Barney stayed for the birth, along with the woman’s partner and a midwife, before the family took their newborn child home.
Pets As Therapy Chief Executive Lisa Coles said that despite the benefit of animals to healthcare, this particular case was an individual agreement between the owner and hospital.
She said: “The circumstances surrounding this case are unusual and do not meet with our specified criteria.
“This particular hospital is not registered with Pets As Therapy and, not having the patient’s details, we cannot confirm that her dog is a registered PAT Dog.
“In this case the decision for the patient to have her pet dog present during child birth was made independently between the hospital and their patient.”
According the charity, there are currently around 4,500 active dogs and 108 cats at work in the UK. visiting about half a million bedsides each year