Developing Pet-Friendly Workplace Policies

You want what’s best for your company and the people you’re responsible for, and maybe you’re anxious about the extra variables welcoming pets will add to your operation. It’s understandable, but many businesses have successfully adopted pet-friendly policies and we’re here to help you create policies that work best for yours.

Like any new business strategy, start by looking at other businesses with pet-friendly policies. Go close to home. Do any offices near yours offer “pet days” or anything similar? Are there any other pet-friendly restaurants or stores in your region that could give you advice? Don’t just observe, reach out — people love talking about their animals and this is a great way to network.

If you don’t have any neighbors you can learn from, you’re in the right place. Mars Petcare has a lot of information on safely allowing pets in the workplace. A sample workplace pet policy for offices, that you might be able to adapt to your needs can be found here. While you might not want to use this policy verbatim, it should provide a great starting point. Banfield Pet Hospital has also compiled a lot of information from managers, employees, and HR reps about pets in the workplace in their PAWrometer surveys, accessible online.

Here are some aspects unique to your business that you should factor into your policy.

Location & Context

Clients & Customers

Is your workplace customer or client-facing? Or is your office mostly private to your employees? Do you plan to make your business welcoming to your customers’ pets, or your own? If you’re catering to your customers, then it might be difficult to require everyone who brings a dog through your door to agree to a formal policy, but you should still post clear guidelines.

An office dog can be a great way to make visiting clients remember you, but you should carefully consider the effects of visitors on pets in your workplace. Some animals can get anxious when confronted with new visitors; make sure you keep their health and safety at the forefront.

Space & Layout

Consider your floorplan. You will have employees or visitors with allergies or other issues that you should be sensitive to. If you want to permit animals on-site, you may want to consider limiting their movement with pet gates, doors, or other barriers so people who need pet-free areas can work in peace. Be approachable about this — employees may feel reluctant to open up about their needs, but it’s your responsibility to look after them.

Do you have any unused space? Pets can get antsy in a new place, especially one as busy as your workplace may be. A quiet calm-down spot — in the basement or by your sanitation area, for example — can work wonders.

Scheduling

Consider your schedule. A lot of offices have seen great responses from a pet day and they can do a lot to refresh employees in the middle of the week. Depending on your work environment, allowing pets all the time may not be appropriate. If your business is customer-facing, letting in pets on your slower days can be a huge draw.

Local Laws

Consult local laws regarding the types of animals you can allow and in what capacity. If you serve food, for example, you’ll have to be mindful about what pets you allow.

Amenities

Pet-Relief & Sanitation

Can you set up sanitation areas around your business or office? A space for animals to relieve themselves is essential even if you don’t let pets into your workplace.

Hydration

Are you able to provide pets with plenty of water? You’ll want a space you can set down water that’s in a safe, accessible location. Even if you don’t let pets into your business, keeping a water dish or two on-hand can make a huge difference for a thirsty pet who’s passing by.

Climate Control

Are you air conditioned? Some pets have to deal with a lot of fur and they might end up extra thirsty or even sick if your workplace runs hot in the summer. By the same token, you might want to expand your pet policies in the summer months for employees who may be concerned about leaving their pets in a hot home all day.

Supplies

Providing extras like treats or leashes can go a long way to making a good impression. If you expect guests or employees to provide their own pet food or waste disposal bags, be up-front about it.

Policy Development

Be Clear

Establish clear consequences for pet misbehavior. If a pet breaks something, for example, what are the repercussions? A clear policy for escalation has a preventative effect, keeping pets’ owners alert and ready to keep them out of trouble.

Establish Requirements

If you decide to allow pets in your workplace, consider a “doggy dress code.” Welcoming pets into your workplace doesn’t mean you should permit animals that might pose a threat to the safety of others — those that haven’t been vaccinated or trained, for example. Common sense is helpful here, but be sure your decisions are reflected in policy. If an animal seems dangerous, you might consider erring on the side of caution. With employees, this can be easier to enforce.

As a basic set of guidelines, Mars Petcare recommends you limit yourself to welcoming pets who are:

  • At least 3 months old
  • Up to date on vaccinations required by state law
  • Free of any communicable infections or any parasites such as fleas
  • Clean and well groomed
  • House-trained
  • Obedient, well-socialized and with no history of biting, excessive barking, chasing or aggressive behavior
  • Microchipped, to help locate and return them in case they run away while visiting
  • Covered under an insurance policy, which must cover dog bites

Consider Social Media

Finally, you might want to think about your social media policy — cute pet pictures are long-standing favorites across the Web. Even in a private office, getting employees to post pictures from a pet day can help to build your brand and generate buzz. At the same time, keep employees sensitive to privacy issues and people’s comfort around cameras.

Workplace Pet Policies

Pet policy documents establish clear guidelines for behaviors and accountability and are intended to help manage potential issues before they ever occur.

Download a Sample

Staff Training

Local & Federal Regulations

Have you educated your employees about federal laws for service dogs? These can require exceptions to the policies you try to follow.

Compliance & Potential Complications

If your business is open to customers, how will you train your employees to deal with complications? Better Cities for Pets has an excellent guide for potential issues with customers who may be afraid of animals or those who attempt to ignore your policies.

Looking for Even More Ways to Improve Your Pet-Friendliness?

Check out Better Cities for Pets™’ comprehensive set of resources for more information on specific actions you can take to improve the pet-friendliness of your community.

View Resources

Mars Petcare's Better Cities for Pets™ program features a comprehensive set of materials and resources designed to help you develop practical strategies for improving the pet-friendliness of your community.

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