Pet Policy in Your Workplace

Each year for the past 20 years, the Friday following Father’s Day is Take Your Dog to Work Day. This unofficial event has grown in popularity, and the trend is likely to continue. According to a survey 2 years ago by Wellness Natural Pet Food, 37% of workers would give up benefits (vacations, working from home, etc.) to be able to bring their pets to work.  Nearly half (46%) said bringing their pet to work would improve their mood. And another survey found that permitted employees to bring their pets to work increases company loyalty.

This prompts me to ask you: Do you have a pet policy? Here are some things to consider in crafting one.

For customers

When you’re making a pet policy for customers and clients, be sure to distinguish between ordinary pets and service animals. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) you cannot bar service animals for disabled individuals in any area open to customers. The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. In other words, a service animal is not a pet, and can’t be excluded unless and until the animal’s behavior becomes problematic (e.g., becomes vicious to person, or another pet).

But you can decide whether or not to permit customers’ pets on your premises. In addition to the potentially favorable impacts listed earlier, here are other some considerations in making your decision.

  • Local laws. Depending on the nature of your business, your local health department may bar pets in the workplace (find your local rules here).
  • Space. You may not be able to accommodate pets on your premises.
  • Safety. It may be unsafe for pets to be present.
  • Consideration of other employees. Not everyone is pro-pet. Some people may have allergies or fears, and permitting pets in your company may be unfair to them.

For employees

When it comes to allowing employees to bring their pets to work, the same pros and cons listed earlier come into play. You may want to get feedback from your staff about whether to allow pets in the workplace. But let’s assume the feedback is positive and you want to allow pets. Then be sure to put details in your employee manual. You may probably want to require that any pet brought to work be healthy, up to date with immunizations and heartworm and flea treatment, and be clean. And you may want to limit the size and type of pet that’s permissible (do you want pigs and boas in your showroom or back office?). And you want it clear who is responsible for the animal (the employee who owns the dog and not the employee’s assistant should be required to watch it and walk it) as well as the rules are for banning a particular animal (e.g., continual barking, accidents, biting).

Whether or not you allow employees to bring their pets to work, you can offer pet-related employee benefits (which can be helpful in attracting and retaining employees in this tight job market). Some to consider:

  • Pet insurance. There are several companies, including Nationwide, offering pet insurance. Nationwide’s plans start at $35/month.
  • Paying for doggie day care. This may be offered as a dollar amount per month. Or it can be paid when employees are required to travel out of town on business.
  • Allowing time off for pet adoption or bereavement. For some employees, the death of a pet can cause as much grief as occurs with the death of a spouse or other relative. Of the companies that currently offer time off, some are merely giving the time while others are making it paid leave. If you want to provide some leave for pet adoption or bereavement, be sure you’re clear about it in the employee manual.

Final thought

For many people, pets are important members of the family, and they don’t want to leave them at home. Weigh the impact of your pet policy on your business and your employees.

Remember that cartoonist, Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame, said “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

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