By Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

ST. LOUIS (AP) - St. Louis Children’s Hospital is opening a new center that will allow young patients enduring long hospital stays to reunite with their pets.

The Purina Family Pet Center officially opened Wednesday with a golden retriever mix named “Happy Jack” tugging away the ribbon. The hospital said the room gives patients a chance to see their pets without leaving the building and the medical technology that is important in their treatment and recovery.

Hospital officials cite studies showing that spending time with pets can reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people dealing with health issues and those staying in long-term care facilities.

“Our doctors see every day the importance of medicine and world class technology,” Jill Malan, manager of Child Life Services at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said in a statement. “We see every day the impact a child’s emotional wellbeing has on their overall recovery.”

Larry Vancil, director of facility services at Children’s, took Malan’s proposal for a room where hospital patients and their families could visit with their cats and dogs to the hospital foundation. The foundation reached out to Nestle Purina, the pet food maker based in St. Louis, which gave $450,000 to help fund construction and staffing.

Children’s officials say the pet center is one of just four in the world.

Animal behavior experts from Purina helped design the room. The 300-square-foot room includes washable surfaces and windows, with room and accommodations for a child in a wheelchair or hospital bed. Toys and treats are available for the pets.

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