What are the benefits of bringing pets to work?
At Purina, we’ve noticed many benefits. For example, bringing a dog to work helps us get outside and take more walks, and bringing a cat gives us another excuse to play. Beyond that, employees find that bringing a pet to work helps them maintain a healthy work-life balance. On our end, Purina has found it is a nice perk for our staff, which helps with retention.
Studies have indicated that employees who bring pets to work show fewer signs of stress. That could be because pets help us relax and take time to meet new people.
Finally, we’ve noticed benefits for pets as well. They get to socialize with new people and play with other pets while enjoying more daily activity and more time with the owner they love.
Before You Start
How can we get building management on board?
If your company owns the building, it’s up to the leadership to decide whether they want to allow pets. If your company is leasing the space, you may have to meet with a management company, a leasing agent, a landlord – or all three. Before you meet with anyone, prepare a list of similar spaces or companies that allow pets at work so that they can see it isn’t an unusual practice and that it can make a space more fun to visit. Be prepared to talk about creating legal documents so that any risk involved isn’t solely on the property owner’s hands.
What legal documents might we need?
You’ll want to be sure to have your workplace’s lawyers draft a liability waiver for employees to sign when they decide to bring their pets to work. These waivers help participating employees understand any risks involved in bringing pets to work, and lets them agree to be held accountable for any legal situations that could arise. This will remove liability from the company. Here’s an example of ours. Please note that our example is only shown as a suggestion, and cannot serve as your company’s waiver. We suggest your company contact your legal representative to create a version that suits your company’s culture and needs.
How can we make sure our pets are good neighbors to other businesses in the building?
Start by making sure everyone has a clear understanding of the type of behavior that is expected from their pets – and what kind of behavior isn’t acceptable. Visit our etiquette guidelines to see how you can help employees understand what is expected.
What medical documentation should employees bring in for their pets?
For health reasons, it’s important to make sure that employees who bring pets to work submit documentation of their pets’ health status and medical checkups. For example, the documents should show that pets have proof of all required vaccinations, including the vaccination for rabies, and that dogs have been vaccinated for bordetellosis. You will also want employees to provide proof that kittens and puppies have had their annual booster shots. Have them store copies of required vaccinations in their work area.
Allergies and Shedding
Will bringing pets to work bother people’s pet allergies?
This shouldn’t be a big problem as long as employees take responsibility for their pets’ grooming and cleanup. If a pet is clean and his coat is cared for regularly, he’ll be less likely to trigger allergies. Being diligent about cleaning up pet hair or any other pet-related messes can also help reduce allergies. This extends beyond the employees to a workplace’s cleaning regimen, so make sure vacuuming happens regularly and that air filters are installed in the building to help keep air clean.
If there are still concerns about allergies, try enforcing limits to where pets can go. If they can’t be restrained in an office or in a contained area, designate pet-free zones. We suggest keeping pets out of conference rooms, collaboration spaces, restrooms, and dining spaces.
Are there any allergy prevention methods that apply specifically to cats or dogs?
A quick background on cat allergies:
Many Americans are allergic to cats. People often assume they’re allergic to cat hair, and thus believe that short-haired cats are more allergy-friendly. In reality, it’s more likely they are allergic to a protein in cats’ saliva, which gets on cats' skin when they groom themselves. To help people with allergies avoid exposure to a cat in the workplace, employees should make sure their cat is well-groomed, and they should clean up any shedding that might occur. They should also keep their cat in a gated area if necessary.
A quick background on dog allergies:
Dogs produce dander, which some people may be allergic to. Some dogs barely shed, while others shed a lot. High-shedding dogs are more likely to trigger allergies. If an employee’s dog is causing sneezes, it might be a good idea to gate his area. If a dog is causing more severe allergies, the dog should not visit the workplace. The best way to prevent allergic reactions is to properly bathe and groom all dogs.
How can shedding be kept under control?
The first step in keeping shedding under control is asking owners to frequently groom their pets before they visit the workplace. The second step is making sure the office is vacuumed regularly and that there is adequate cleanup of any dander left by pets.
Accidents and Emergencies
What do we do if pets go to the bathroom where they shouldn’t?
To prevent this, make sure it’s clear that all pets that visit a workplace must be fully housetrained. Pet owners should know their pets’ bathroom routines and only bring them to the office when their work schedules can allow them to give pets a bathroom break when they’re used to taking one.
No matter what you do, accidents may happen. When they do, the pet owner should
clean it up immediately and then report the accident to cleaning services so that everything can be properly disinfected.
Can people other than pet owners let dogs out for bathroom breaks if necessary?
Yes, although anyone who lets someone else’s dog out should ask for permission
before taking the dog outside. Make sure dog owners provide anyone who might be doing
so with the dog’s leash so he or she can keep the dog restrained. The owner
can also cue them into behaviors that indicate the dog needs to go out.
It’s important for the workplace culture to allow these types of small breaks so that
owners and helpful people around the office can let dogs out when necessary.
What happens if a pet runs away?
If there’s any worry that a pet might run away if the door opens, the pet should remain on a leash or in a restricted area throughout the day. If worst comes to worst and a pet does run away, it’s important to report the issue to HR, security or building management so people can help locate the pet as soon as possible. We recommend using Twitter and Facebook to spread the word (and a picture of the pet) to ask anyone in the surrounding area for assistance. All pet owners should make sure their pet has a collar and ID tag on at all times, so that they can be easily identified and returned if they get lost.
How can I make sure my pet will be OK if there is an emergency?
First, be prepared with the following things on hand:
• The phone numbers and addresses of your veterinarian and an after-hours emergency clinic, including directions on how to get there
• First-aid supplies, including bandages, gauze and hydrogen peroxide
• The phone number of the poison treatment hotline in your area
• A list of any medications your pet is taking
Next, familiarize your pet with the evacuation route to make sure he’s comfortable
with stairwells and confined spaces.
Last, notify the fire marshal on your floor when your pet is present so he’ll know to
evacuate him in an emergency if you’re away from your desk.
Supplies and Treats
What supplies should be available for pets?
Treats, water bowls and clean-up bags are a must for any office with pets. A short list of items that owners may want to bring includes a pet bed, bowls for water and food, chew toys, plastic bags with ties, an extra leash, disinfectant wipes, first aid supplies, a list with emergency contact numbers for the veterinarian, and after-hour emergency clinic contact information.
What types of treats are healthy to keep around for pets?
With treats, the most important thing to remember is that they’re best in moderation. Pet owners should try to make sure pets don’t get more than 10% of their daily calories from treats or else they may be losing out on nutrients and more likely to gain weight. Pet owners should let their colleagues know about any nutrition goals they have for pets so everyone understands that treats should not be handed out too liberally.
It’s also important for pet owners to ask employees not to feed their pets human food scraps. Doing so can teach pets to beg for food, which isn’t good for the pets or the people trying to enjoy their meals.
What types of toys should pets play with at work?
Balls are a perfect toy for dogs in any setting but the workplace. Any toy that causes them to run around and get riled up should be kept at home. Instead, opt for toys that are designed to keep dogs busy and quiet, like puzzle feeders, rawhides, and chew toys. For cats, puzzle feeders and feather toys are good options. Avoid letting people play with your cat by having her chase a laser pointer; this can feel fruitless and frustrating for cats as they fail to catch that elusive red dot.
Which areas at work should be pet-free zones?
We recommend making fitness centers, daycares, meeting spaces, food preparation spaces, dining areas, data centers, medical departments, mother’s lounges, and restrooms pet-free. Employees can also use leashes and child gates to keep pets constrained in smaller areas.
What kind of outdoor space is ideal in any pet-friendly workplace?
A park, dog park, or large outdoor space are perfect for getting out of the office into the fresh air and giving a dog some exercise. Employees can also take dogs on walks around the neighborhood to burn energy.
How can we make sure a dog doesn’t bark too much?
Make sure employees understand that loud, fearful or disruptive dogs should be at home during the day. If a pet does bark at someone, the owner should help him or her get acquainted with the dog in a friendly manner so they aren’t left fearful or feeling like they angered the dog. Letting someone feed the dog a treat is a great way to help create positive associations.
Will cats and dogs fight with one another?
We suggest keeping dogs and cats on leashes or in gated areas. This lets them stay in their own space without roaming and playing too aggressively with one another. Any pets that are prone to pick on other pets should stay home. If their owners want to bring them to work, they can opt for behavior training to help their pet learn to play nice.
If a fight does break out, the owners of any pets involved should immediately separate the pets and take them to a neutral space to check for any injuries and calm the pets down. The pets involved should be kept apart until they learn better behavior. If two pets in particular don’t get along, their owners can coordinate with each other to bring them in on different days.
What happens if a pet makes someone feel afraid?
A crucial part of pet ownership is teaching your dog or cat how to be a good neighbor. Employees who bring pets to work should realize that many people can be frightened by unfamiliar dogs and cats. It's important to be respectful of these feelings. If a pet makes people feel afraid, the pet shouldn’t be brought to work.
How can employees make sure pets behave around children that may be in the workplace?
Any employee who brings a pet to work should know the pet’s personality and be mindful when children are present. If a pet may intimidate or frighten a child, an owner should take great measures to avoid any incidents - even if it means not allowing the child to see the pet.
How can a pet owner make sure children behave well toward pets?
When a child greets a pet, the pet's owner should help the child understand what kind of behavior will make the pet feel most comfortable. If the child is overly aggressive with the pet, help the child understand how the pet is feeling and how to approach the pet more respectfully. It can also help to provide children with a small, healthy treat to feed a pet so the child and pet can meet under friendly circumstances.
How can a workplace make sure everyone’s on board with having pets?
Create an environment where people can easily communicate their points of view and feel that their voices are being heard. That way everyone can work together to create solid guidelines around bringing pets to work. This will help establish a precedent that makes it simple and routine to deal with any circumstances that may arise.
What’s the best way to get a pet ready to come to work?
If you’re working on getting your pet ready to behave well in the workplace, start by considering his behavior. Is he well-trained, socialized, and calm? If not, you will want to work on training first. Then, make sure your pet is well-groomed, so that dander or allergens will be less likely to trigger allergies.
On the day you bring your pet to work, make sure he is comfortable and safe in the car ride to work so that he won’t become scared. Consider introducing your cat to the workspace over the weekend, so she can explore the new surroundings with fewer distractions.
How can the trip to work be comfortable for a cat?
Car rides can be difficult for cats. You may need to have three steps and get your cat used to each one before she can complete a whole day at work.
- Get her used to traveling in a crate or travel carrier by putting a treat inside and carrying her throughout the house.
- Get her used to riding in the car inside her crate or carrier by taking several rides.
- Bring her to the workplace for short periods of time.
Once she starts to feel comfortable with the process, you can try a whole day. If your cat objects to these three steps, she might prefer to stay home and snooze while you work.
When you do bring your cat to work, make sure you bring a litter box, as well as familiar objects (toys, a blanket) with her scent on them. These objects can help put her at ease.
How can the car ride to work be comfortable for a dog?
While dogs often enjoy car rides, there are some safety precautions to keep in mind. Make sure your dog doesn’t sit in the front seat. Instead, have your dog ride in the back, ideally in a crate made for traveling or attached to the seat with a dog seat belt, which are available at most pet supply stores. Make sure your dog doesn’t put his head out the car window, as this can be a safety hazard. In case your dog escapes on the way to work, make sure he is wearing a collar and ID tag and is micro-chipped. Partners for Animal Welfare has a list of tips and potential hazards.