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Do you celebrate take your dog to work day?

June 21, 2017

By Kristen Cifolelli, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Friday, June 23rd is the 19th annual “Take Your Dog to Work Day” and many employers will be recognizing the day by allowing their employees to bring Fido into the office. Take Your Dog to Work Day (TYDTW Day) was created by Pet Sitters International (PSI) in 1999. PSI created the day to encourage businesses to allow dogs in the workplace for one Friday each year to celebrate the great companions dogs make and promote their adoptions from local shelters, rescue groups, and humane societies. The week leading up to Take Your Dog to Work Day is Take Your Pet to Work Week.

Some of the activities companies have planned to celebrate the day include a doggie adopt-a-thon where arrangements can be made for pets from a local shelter or rescue group to be brought to work to host an adoption fair.  Pet-care lunch and learns can be hosted where professional dog trainers and veterinarians can present on topics such as pet health, grooming tips, and pet first aid.  Canine contests such as best trick, best outfit, or pet and owner look-a-like contests are great ways to get employees involved.  

While Take Your Dog to Work Day is a single day to bring your dog to the office, many companies are offering that perk year-round.  Some of those companies include Zynga, Amazon, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif bar, and Google.  Here in Michigan several ASE members have pet-friendly policies including RJG, Inc; Takata/TK Holdings Inc.; and Leader Dogs for the Blind.  “Visitors to the building always are pleasantly surprised to see that dogs wander the building.  It is a great ice breaker and creates more camaraderie between employees. I haven’t failed to see anyone smile when they are greeted by our 4-legged employees,” states Jeannette Storms, Human Resources Coordinator, RJG, Inc. “Dogs are a big part of our work culture.  I now include ‘must love dogs’ in all of our job postings, and it really captures the attention of candidates.  People respond that it sounds like the kind of place they want to work.”

Before a “Bring Your Dog to Work” event or policy is implemented, there are many different issues that will need to be considered.  The following are guidelines to assist with that process:

  • Create an exploratory committee – Not all employees will be thrilled with the idea of bringing a dog to work.  Solicit feedback from both pet-owners and non pet-owners regarding the pro and cons involved with having dogs at work.  If there is enough support and alternatives to offer those who may not like the idea (such as dog-free zones), the next step is to implement a dog policy.
  • Develop a detailed pet policy – the best policies have very specific guidelines and should include the following elements:
    • Which organizational roles and which areas of the office will be allowed for dogs (e.g., manufacturing areas and reception areas would not be conducive).
    • Dogs must be healthy.  Documentation should be provided to show that dogs are current on their vaccinations, have no recent history of infection or ringworm, and parasite control (ticks/fleas) is being done on a regular basis. Owners may not bring dogs to work that are ill or behaving abnormally.
    • Define designated areas for dogs, such as the dog owner’s office/cubicle and common areas.  Clearly define prohibited areas such as lunchrooms, lactation areas, etc.  Owners must have control over their dogs at all times and leashes must be used when walking them.
    • Work time should not be used to care for dogs. Only lunch and break times can be used for that purpose.  
    • Guidelines for appropriate clean up and waste removal should be outlined.  All dogs must be house trained.
    • Create an application process to review and approve requests to bring a dog to work.  Employers may require the employee to sign a waiver to assume any responsibility for damage done to the office. It must also release and indemnify the employer from any liability associated with having dogs at work
  • Remove dogs that are aggressive, destructive, or distracting to workers – Dogs that bark frequently, are excessively vocal or are aggressive should be immediately removed from the workplace.  Policies should include a trial period to ensure new dogs will be able to adapt to the work environment.
  • Ensure the Office is Dog-Proof – Designate areas for workers to walk their dogs, install gates to keep them out of prohibited areas and ensure all hazards (e.g., electrical cables) are inaccessible.

Employers that have dog-friendly policies should be aware that employees with allergies or animal phobias may need to be offered an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees who have a fear of dogs should not be subjected to a work environment that exacerbates this condition. They should be offered a dog-free work area.  

Conversely, employers that prohibit pets at work may also need to make an exception under the ADA for employees who need the assistance of service dogs. This would include seeing-eye dogs, emotional support dogs and dogs that assist with hearing impairments and seizure disorders.  

For more information, ASE member Leader Dogs for the Blind has created a set of comprehensive guidelines available for download.

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