I recently contributed opinion to a journalist about potential problems of dogs in the workplace. Dogs at the office or other workplace are increasingly popular: they create a homey and inviting environment, lower blood pressure, and encourage friendly office social interactions. However there are legal and other issues to consider before bringing or allowing dogs to be brought into your workplace. If you’re considering taking your dog to your office, keep in mind the following checklist of important considerations.
1. If you run a “retail food establishment” – basically, anyplace that serves food or drink – it may very well be illegal for you to have dogs in or near your workplace. There is no federal law banning dogs from retail food establishments, but the FDA has made a comprehensive recommendation against it, which has resulted in many states passing laws banning them. The result can be fines or worse. Check your state and local dog laws to be sure.
2. Check the terms of your lease. If there is no specific dog-friendly clause, contact your landlord and request written permission.
3. Insurance. Your insurance should include coverage for property damage caused by dogs in your workplace, as well as personal injury. Additionally you may want to require that individual employees who bring dogs have coverage in their insurance as well. Keep in mind that some insurance policies are “breed specific” – e.g. they exclude coverage of damage resulting from pit bulls.
4. Mention the dog-friendly nature of your workplace in job postings, advertising and descriptions. Employees, clients, and visitors with dog phobias or allergies should know what they’re getting into.
5. Consider the kind of dog you bring to work: breed, size, age, and temperament. Some breeds do better than others in crowded, bustling indoor environments. The size of the dog should fit the size of your office. As for age, although puppies are undeniably cute, they are by far the most problematic stage of dog and you should probably wait until around a year to start bringing him. Temperament is the most important: you want your dog to be calm, peaceful, patient, social, friendly and obedient.
6. Training. Get your dog trained, at home at first, and at the office as well. Contact a professional, certified dog trainer who has experience working with city dogs in office environments. They should work with you at home and then accompany you with your dog to the office. Get everyone in and around your office involved as well – it takes a village!