Pets in care homes. By Dr Michael Toze

Pets in care homes

HARG researchers are working with the University of Liverpool on a project exploring issues around pets in care homes. This project is funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust.

Statistics suggest that around one in three people aged 65+ live with a pet, and for many, pets are an important part of the family. However, when people move into care homes, it is not always possible to bring pets with them. For some, this can cause additional distress at what is already a difficult time. There has also been a court case in which a judge decided that it was in the best interests of an older person in a care home to stay in contact with her dog.

We are currently talking to care home managers, staff, residents and relatives about different ways care homes address situations around pets – whether that’s care homes that do permit pets to live in the home, care homes that encourage family members and friends to bring in pets to visit, care homes that arrange visits with animals, or care homes that have decided that they can’t accept animals on the premises. We’re interested in how people feel about different policies, and in understanding both the benefits and the challenges of having animals in care homes.

We’ve also carried out some online analysis of the information on care home websites about their pet policies. At the end of the project, we will be producing reports that explain what we have found, and suggest some different ways of addressing this.


Meeting coming up


In May/June 2020 we will be holding a meeting in Lincolnshire with people who are not currently care home residents but who have an interest in this issue – that might be people who take pets to visit care homes, or people who have pets and are planning ahead for what they would do if they needed care. This meeting will be to discuss what we’ve found so far, and to ask if there is anything else we should be looking into. If you would be interested in attending, please contact

More resources

Members of our research team have published a more detailed academic article on some of the background to this project.

The Cinnamon Trust, who keep a register of pet-friendly care homes in the UK.

The Blue Cross, who run a phoneline for people who have been separated from their pets, and also offer good practice guidance for care homes on pet policies.