June 23 is National Bring Your Dog to Work Day. Here are some best practices when considering bringing your pet to work—for one day or fur-ever!
- Be Purr-Real
Generally, your boss can say no to your pet. However, California requires employers to accommodate employees with assistive animals, such as service dogs (or miniature horses) and emotional support animals. So, it might be tempting to claim that your pet is an assistive animal, even if they are not. DO NOT DO THIS!
Making a false claim that your pet is an assistive animal is disrespectful to people living with disabilities. Instead of boosting morale, misrepresenting your pets could lead to strained relationships with coworkers who may view it as unfair or a breach of trust.
Instead, honestly ask your supervisor if you can bring your pet. You can discuss the potential benefits and positive effects that a pet’s visit can have on the workplace. Be prepared to address any potential concerns such as allergies, safety, or distractions. Assure them that you will take full responsibility for your pet’s behavior and well-being, and propose practical solutions to address any valid concerns.
2. Check the Paw-licies
Check if your workplace has a pet policy. Familiarizing yourself with this policy will help you understand the guidelines and expectations surrounding pets in the workplace. Additionally, it is crucial that you consider local ordinances and regulations that may apply to non-assistive pets in the workplace. Different jurisdictions may have specific requirements or restrictions that you need to be aware of to ensure compliance. These regulations could also depend on the type of work you do. For example, it is likely less of an issue to bring your dog to a Parks and Recreation program than it would be to bring your dog to the kitchen for Meals on Wheels.
3. Make Sure Your Pet is Vetted
We are not talking about going to the vet—though that is also important! Vetting your pet means making sure that your pet is up to the challenge. Pets can experience stress when exposed to unfamiliar surroundings, noises, and interactions. If your pet will be in physical contact with others, make sure that your pet has a friendly disposition, is well trained, and can socialize with humans and other animals.
You need to evaluate your pet’s temperament and personality and make honest assessments. Remember, you promised to be personally responsible for your pet’s behavior. If your pet is not ready for the office life, results could be disastrous. Keep in mind that you can be liable for injuries even if you did not intend to cause any harm. Beyond property damage or injuries, a bad experience at the office will stress your pet and could leave lasting trauma.
4. Bear in Mind, We’re Not All Party Animals
Pets can inspire either adoration or apprehension. In some cases, our pets can inspire both! Some people might want to cuddle with your furry friend but their allergies say otherwise. Be prepared to set up “no pet” zones for people who cannot be around animals.
Fear and dislike of pets are also valid emotions experienced by many. These feelings sometimes stem from past traumas, cultural differences, or personal preferences.
If you have an exotic pet (like spiders or snakes), you are probably already aware that your pet might scare some people. In these circumstances, you may be liable for injuries even if it was the result of your coworker’s fearful reaction to the pet, and not your pet actually doing anything harmful.
Before bringing your pet to work, make sure everyone is on board. This applies to all kinds of pets. Remember that your coworkers did not sign up for this. Make it clear to them that you understand that your pet would be an unexpected addition to the work environment. Recognizing a hesitant coworker’s concerns might even put them on your side.
5. Being Top Dog Comes With Responsibility
Employers—understand that the buck stops with you. An employee or a member of the public can initiate legal action against you for injuries caused by your employee’s pet, even if your employee promised to take full responsibility. This is an inherent, unavoidable risk when allowing pets in the workplace.
Mitigate the risk of unwanted consequences as much as you can. It helps to have a carefully crafted pet policy. This policy should outline expectations from your employees and any restrictions (such as pet free zones). It should also make clear that your employees are responsible for their pet’s actions. Be prepared to resolve disputes and complaints fairly and professionally. When in doubt, ask a lawyer!