Open Wide the Doggie Door: Should Your Business Be Pet-Friendly?

The startup market has changed how companies do business, bringing increased creativity and individuality to the job market. One manifestation of this urge to stand out is the pet-friendly office. Allowing pets in the office is part of a broader attempt to attract the best employees by making the office feel like home. Unfortunately, unlike comfortable furniture or a nice coffee pot, allowing pets in the office comes with some hazards.

Are you considering making your office pet-friendly? Before you take the next step, here are 4 factors you should consider.




The Happiness Quotient

The general logic that pet-friendly offices follow is that welcoming pets raises employee morale. And it’s true. Many people feel like they have greater work-life balance when there are pets at work. The exceptions, of course, are those employees who are allergic to animal hair or afraid of dogs. And this is the balance pet-friendly workplaces need to strike.


Lessons in Liability

One of the greatest concerns when it comes to welcoming pets into the office is the risk of an animal bite. According to Marks & Harrison, a law firm specializing in personal injury cases, animal owners are generally responsible for controlling their animal to prevent any bites or attacks. When a business welcomes animals into the office place, however, the balance of power shifts slightly.

Employers should have all individuals interested in bringing their pet to the office sign legal documents taking on all liability for animal bites. You don’t want to get sued over the behavior of an employee’s pet.

While business owners can require that pets behave properly and institute a three strikes rule in the office setting, these rules typically apply to actions like scratching furniture, barking, or pet accidents. At the first signs of aggression, however, a pet must no longer be welcome in the workplace.


Disability Concerns

As noted above, though, most people appreciate having a pet-friendly office. However, those with allergies are likely to feel more than a little put off. In fact, those with severe allergies could even sue the business under the ADA for discrimination. Since animal-free offices are the norm outside of pet stores and veterinary offices, not having animals in the workplace is the more “reasonable accommodation.”



Learn What Works

The most important thing you can do before deciding to welcome pets into your office is to look at other companies that are already welcoming animals successfully. CLIF Bar & Company, for example, offers a large, clearly identified off-leash area. On the other hand, Trupanion employees are given baby gates for corralling their pets, access to dog-walking services, and company-backed pet insurance. Different companies approach pet-friendly policies in different ways. However, the successful ones find ways to balance employee productivity with the community-building power of welcoming pets.

Any company that wants to adopt a pet-friendly policy needs to accept that they’re also taking on extra paperwork, potential legal problems, and a set of policy questions unlike any they’ve ever faced. But most happily take this on in light of the social, community-oriented benefits of such a policy. So, will you be opening up the doggie door at your office?