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For small businesses, pets can often be both a blessing and a burden. Apart from being loved by customers, clients and employees, there are a number of legal drawbacks that business owners should be mindful of when crafting their pet policies.
Below, you can read some common issues and get a few tips about keeping your pet-friendly business out of legal trouble.
For jobs that aren’t pet friendly, like food service, or jobs that could be downright dangerous, like construction, it makes sense to have policies banning workers from bringing pets to work. But obvious dangers aside, if employees simply have pet-related allergies, you could be facing a serious dilemma. Additionally, not all pets will get along with each other and certain people, and often when dogs play, it can get loud, distracting, and sometimes a bit scary. Also, barking indoors can be incredibly distracting.
Despite the clear drawbacks and potential for lost productivity, the potential morale boost that can come with having an office mascot, or allowing pets in the office, can more than make up for it. Not to mention the fact that you’ll likely never have problems with recruiting new employees. To avoid those drawbacks though, businesses can craft well thought out pet policies that can minimize distractions, as well as legal risks. For example, employers can require that pets pass behavior tests, stay with their owners at all times, and limit the number of pets that can be brought in on any given day. Additionally, employers can require pet owners to sign indemnification agreements to pay for damages or injuries caused by their pet, or even maintain specific pet-liability insurance policies.
For businesses that are centered around the idea of pets, such as cat cafés, pet policies might have to be a bit more carefully considered. For one, most states prohibit pets (not service animals) from being in the same facility where food is served. Furthermore, if the animals are a feature of the business for customers, clients or guests to enjoy, then it is probably wise to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of employees trained on handling animal-related emergencies, as well as first-aid.
Perhaps not surprisingly, tech companies have embraced some of the most pet friendly policies. For example, the ride-sharing company Uber based in California provides unlimited PTO for employees to train their pets before bringing them into the office. That’s a policy worth barking about.
If you're considering crafting a pet policy for your small business, consider contacting an experienced business attorney for help assessing your business's primary concerns.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.