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5 Legal Tips for Allowing Pets at Work

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

It's becoming more commonplace for businesses to allow employees to bring pets to work.

Some studies have shown that employees who bring their dogs to work experience lower levels of stress-causing hormone cortisol, according to USA Today. Other people simply think having their pets around makes the workplace more enjoyable.

But before you allow pets at work, here are some legal tips to consider.

  1. Recognize the risk of injury. Even if you think you or your employee's pet is the friendliest creature on earth, you still need to be aware of the liability risks regarding animal attacks and bites. Pet owners are liable for their pets' actions. You might want employees to get comprehensive liability insurance coverage before they bring their pets to the office.
  2. Be mindful of employees' allergies. It's important to make sure that all your employees are comfortable with having animals around the office, especially if there are employees who are allergic to certain pets. So if a business owner is aware that there are employees who are allergic to dogs, but still allows other employees to bring in their canines, the business owner could be liable under negligence laws for any allergic reactions.
  3. Create a clear pet policy. If you're going to allow pets at work, make sure to create a clear pet policy that dictates what animals may be brought in, the pet owner's responsibilities in controlling the animal, and who's responsible for animal bites. The policy should be in writing and sent out to all your employees as well as prominently posted in common areas.
  4. Make sure customers know about the pet policy. Not only should the company's pet policy be prominently displayed for employees, it should also be conspicuous to customers as well. As a business owner who allows pets in the store, you may be vicariously liable for injures incurred by customers even if you're not the pet owner.
  5. Know the laws regarding service dogs. Under federal laws, business that have a blanket ban against service dogs may be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. So even if you don't allow pets at work, you can't ban them all together.

While pets may be fun to have at work, know your legal obligations and liabilities before your office turns into a doggie day care.

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Editor's Note, April 5, 2016: This post was first published in April 2014. It has since been updated.

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