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Allowing Dogs at Work Can Lead to Liability

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

Having dogs at work is fun and some businesses are now allowing them to come in all the time, not just on 'bring your dog to work' day.

Big companies like Google make headlines for their pet policies but small companies also embrace 'man's best friend' as an officemate. That's great when the pet is well behaved but not all of them are.

The dog's owner is liable for the pet's actions but if you allow employees to bring dogs to work you could be on the legal hook as well.

Owners are liable for injuries to employees caused by the workplace. That means anything wrong with the office, including an aggressive pet that you allow in, can be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

If you let the dogs in without a clear liability policy you could be in a tough situation if the dog bites or makes a mess.

Lack of a clear policy also means it's harder to show if pets were kept out due to employee discrimination or bad behavior.

The solution is not to ban dogs from the office. After all, they can potentially boost morale and lower stress.

The answer is to craft a good pet policy. If you write it with your attorney you can be sure that it will protect your interests without damaging a positive office vibe.

Any good pet policy should cover a few things.

For injury protection, make sure pet owners get comprehensive liability insurance that covers bites and other injuries before they bring a dog to the office. That ensures that they can cover any injuries their pet causes.

Make sure the policy is clear that any damage the dog causes through scratching, running around, or having an accident will be covered by the dog owner.

There are also some situations where you might want to ban a dog from the office either temporarily or permanently. Things like aggression, allergies, multiple accidents, or interference with productivity can be reasons to keep a dog out the office.

Lack of proper immunizations, fleas, or other health problems can also be cause to keep the pet away until those issues are dealt with.

If you put it in writing up front, it cuts down on misunderstandings that can lead to problems down the line.

Some people love having a dog at work, even if it's not theirs, and if you're one of them you can safely encourage employees to bring their dogs. Just make sure they know your expectations first so you can avoid liability.

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