Ireland’s nursing home pets – from donkeys to peacocks

Animals provide comfort and loyal friendship in nursing homes around the country

Inspired by the work of therapy animals, The Irish Times put in a call to Nursing Homes Ireland, the representative organisation for Ireland's private and voluntary nursing home sector, to see if any of its members had their own pets.

The response was overwhelming with reports of a veritable menagerie of animals providing comfort and loyal friendship to nursing home residents the length and breadth of the country. Here is just a small selection:

The residents of St Joseph’s Nursing Home in Mount Sackville in Dublin share their home with Jessie, a black labrador who was adopted from Dogs Trust. They also have a resident cat who is allowed free reign.

Orwell Healthcare in Rathgar in Dublin enjoys the company of a visiting therapy dog Jessie who has the impressive title of "Director of Feeling Good".


Kiltormer Nursing Home in Ballinasloe, Co Galway has a mini pet farm with a cat, two peacocks, hens and baby chicks. There was also much excitement recently when they welcomed a new arrival in the form of a baby mule.

Proof that therapy animals come in all shapes and sizes is seen at St Martha's nursing home in Charleville, Co Cork which has a budgie called Dickie, while residents in Brookvale Manor, in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo have a pet rabbit.

Áras Chois Fharraige in Spiddal, Co Galway, are the proud owners of two pygmy goats called Salainn and Piobar (Salt and Pepper). According to the nursing home the goats "bring untold joy and happiness to our residents and staff as well as visitors to the Áras. They have become a focal point in our community with people calling to the Áras just to visit the goats".

Residents at the Áras also enjoy the company of eight hens, a cockerel, numerous goldfish, turtles Ajax and Cookie, and visiting therapy dogs that come to see the residents several times a week.

According to Áras Chois Fharraige, “Pet therapy is an integral part of life in the Áras. Many of our residents would have been raised on farms and some would even have had farms of their own so these animals not only bring happiness and joy to our residents but also act as a tool for reminiscing.”

CareChoice Nursing Homes, which has a number of residential facilities around the country, has a wonderful practice of allowing residents to bring their pets in from home. Pets can spend the entire day with their owners before going home in the evening.

Our Lady of Lourdes Care Facility, in Kilcummin Village, Killarney, Co Kerry also has an active pet therapy ethos with Misty the donkey and cats Ginger and Twinkles. Hens Blackie and Cheeky provide the home with fresh eggs every day.

Do you have pets in your nursing home? Send your story to Health+Family editor Leonie Corcoran at or tweet @IT_HealthPlus