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Rescue dog trained to soothe cancer patients at top Paris hospital

It is hoped ‘Snoopy’ will support anxious patients, especially children. He is part of a two-year project looking into how dogs could be a help in hospitals

Snoopy the English setter will spend two years at the Institut Curie while researchers study his impact on staff and patients Pic: Institut Curie

An English setter rescue dog is working as a stress-relieving dog at one of the world’s top cancer hospitals in Paris.

Researchers at the Institut Curie have prepared a two-year research programme into the protocols needed for dogs to be used in hospitals.

Staff take him home at night

Snoopy, believed to be aged two, has a rotating set of four doctors and nurses who take him home after each work day.

At the start of the project, he was accompanied by an external trainer for most of the day, but as he settles into his role, he is spending more time alone with patients. 

Snoopy’s workplace covers waiting rooms, consultation rooms, recovery rooms and some wards. 

Read more: ‘Bring your dog to work’ could lure people back to French offices

Poses no hygiene risk

He is not allowed in places where bandages are changed or where there is a risk he will come into contact with patients with weak immune systems.

The effect he has on both patients and staff will be studied during the programme.

In waiting rooms, Snoopy is trained to lie on the floor and respond to pats and signs of affection. 

In wards, he has been taught to put his front paws on the beds of patients who want to fuss him.

Staff say a hygiene assessment was carried out before Snoopy was recruited and he was deemed to pose no risk.

“Many patients return home to houses with pets and so are already exposed to animals,” a spokeswoman said.

“Snoopy is looked after by vets from one of France’s main vet schools, and is washed often.”

Support dogs in palliative care and law courts

The hospital’s director, Professor Steven Le Gouill, said he was confident Snoopy will be beneficial to patients who do not want to communicate with staff or who are anxious, especially teenagers and children.

“We hope this research will show the use of dogs to be beneficial for patients and staff and that it will encourage other hospitals to follow us.”

Another hospital in Antibes (Alpes-Maritimes), which specialises in end-of-life care, has also started using a dog. 

Lucky the Labrador-cross works mainly in the reception area, offering stuffed toys to visitors so they can throw them for him.

Specially trained dogs could soon be used in law courts as well, to calm witnesses and victims. It follows the success of a Labrador called Lol who started work in 2020 in Cahors (Lot).

Read more: More law courts in France to use ‘calming’ dogs after trial success

At first, Lol’s role was limited to keeping people calm while waiting for their case, but he behaved so well that he was soon allowed in the courtroom. 

The justice minister wants to introduce 100 court dogs, roughly one for each department, providing funding to the association Handi’chiens for this to happen.

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