CHICAGO (CBS) — A new kind of visitor is seeing patients at Rush University Medical Center.

Rush is believed to be the first hospital in the Chicago area to have a formal policy allowing patients’ pets to make visits.

Robyn Hart, director of child life services at Rush says pet visitors have a great therapeutic benefit. She says they, “just bring so much joy to their owners. I can’t think of anything better.”

The Rush policy went into effect just a few weeks ago after a couple of years of study and discussion.

Already, at least a handful of patients have had their pets visit, says Hart.

Hart says the policy is written to be only for dog and cat pets, although, doctors could decide on other kinds of animals on a patient-by-patient basis.

Hart says before pets can visit patients, the patients’ physicians must approve and find it medically appropriate, and if the patient has a roommate, the roommate must be asked whether he or she has any problem with a pet visitor. If so, the visit can take place in another room. The pets must also have had their shots and be clean.

Besides pet visitors being allowed at Rush, it already had a furry friend who visits children who are hospitalized. Coco, the rabbit, visits child patients every day and according to Hart, brightens the day for anyone she comes across.

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