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It seems that some companies (as many as one in five) are now permitting/encouraging employees to bring their pets in to the workplace with them. Some are even claiming that pets in the workplace can lower stress and improve communication.

I want to get in on this, as I believe it could be beneficial (and fun). How should I approach my boss about bringing in my pet (cat)?

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    @MichaelDurrant: No, rocks are not good pets to bring to the office. With a little help, they become violent projectiles, hurtling themselves into other people's computers. Or heads. ;) – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 7 '12 at 21:38
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    I can't beleive this is serious. What world do some people live in. I don't beleive the 1 in 5 reference (its from a vested interest) – NimChimpsky May 8 '12 at 8:34
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    @NimChimpsky: If 1 in 5 companies includes ALL companies, might that also include small start-ups of under 10 people? Does it even include home-based companies where pets are already "in the work place" (when you forget to close the door to the home office)? Would farms count as companies, with cats in the barn counted as pets? What about veterinarian's offices? It might be interesting to segment this information by types and sizes of companies. Also to count number of pets per company and per employee and look at company size. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 8 '12 at 15:09
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    @kevincline Cats have in the past been deemed service or mental health companion animals. However, in the United States in 2010 the ADA regulations were officially amended to define "service animal" as "dog". – jcmeloni May 8 '12 at 17:04
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    @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner; I agree with your comment. I think they are missing the large negative correlation between company size and likelihood that bringing your pet to work is allowed. – Clayton Stanley May 9 '12 at 1:33
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Before going to the boss, I'd suggest talking it over with your coworkers first. See if they support or oppose the idea, or have more specific issues. Some people have allergies to cats and dogs. Some people may even have phobias about certain animals (usually I see this with larger dogs, but no reason it couldn't happen with cats). And some people just don't like cats or dogs (I know you think it will be beneficial and fun, but not everyone will agree with that). If your coworkers have these issues, there might be no point in bringing it up with your boss, unless you want to start trouble.

Other issues to consider are:

  • what kind of workplace do you work in? Is it likely that a cat/dog will be able to cause trouble if left unattended (and it doesn't matter how well trained they are - even the best-trained pet can get scared/upset/frightened/angry and go out of character)? I work in an office environment and I picture coming back to my desk to find a cat on my keyboard and the nice and neat cables under my desk turned into an awful mess and unplugged/chewed on. Or dog hair all over my chair and back-pack. I would not be happy with either of those situations. If it's a manufacturing/factory setting, it's probably not safe at all.
  • Is your workplace open to members of the public?
  • Do clients often visit?

    The Public and clients should be considered because both groups of these people may have allergies or not want to be around the animals.

In addition to checking on current employees allergies, I would also think about the future, i.e.

  • Will not being allergic now become basically a requirement for new hires to work at your location ?
  • If it is tried for a while, you will the have dander in the office, are you prepared to do massive internal cleaning if you get an allergic employee? What about guests - will visitors to the company or department, either personal or professional now have to be pre-screen for allergies?
  • Will there be clear emergency procedures if there is eventually a problem?

If you can get coworker buy-in, then maybe go to the boss and cite some studies, show some research on how other companies handle pets in the workplace, and that enough of your fellow coworkers are OK with it (or at the very least don't have vocal opposition).

  • Additionally, assuming all your coworkers are okay with the idea, you may want to check and see if there are any HR policies dealing with animals in the workplace. – Joshua Drake May 7 '12 at 19:20
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    @JoshuaDrake: No doubt HR would eventually get involved, though I would expect that would only happen after the team approaches the boss with a consensus and the boss moves forward to make it happen (which would involve discussing with HR, facilities maintenance, etc...). I wouldn't expect an employee to go directly to HR to discuss this, unless it's just to check for pre-existing policies. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 7 '12 at 19:23
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    Excellent points +1, I would feel very uncomfortable having any pet animals within my office and this may in turn hinder my work. – k25 May 8 '12 at 14:04
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    @MasonWheeler: That's because housecats are too sneaky to get caught. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner May 11 '12 at 19:11
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    + 100 for clearing it with the coworkers. I know I would get pretty mad if someone brought a dog into work without consultations, and I would have to leave work if anybody brought a cat because of allergic asthma. I think these points would make the proposal a question which couldn't be answered by a majority of polled co-workers, but that the idea should die if anybody had any objections. – Owe Jessen May 11 '12 at 21:13
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I have a friend that works at Amazon - probably one of the most bring-your-pet-to-work friendly companies in the US (besides pet stores etc.) - and he can't bring his dogs in to work because Amazon doesn't 100% own the building that he is in.

I'd check out what the building ownership/lease information says before I talked to anyone at work about it. If you can't bring a pet in to work for contractual reasons, there is no reason taking it any further.

  • Would the lease agreement be something an average employee could see? I'd assume it would only be available to people in management/contracts involved in the deal. – Dan Neely May 7 '12 at 17:31
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    @DanNeely That really just depends. Chances are you could at the very least find out the building's general policies. If as a rule, they don't allow pets for tenants, it is unlikely that any one tenant would negotiate for pets and then not mention anything to their employees. However, I think the right people in HR, etc... should know. – Robert Greiner May 7 '12 at 17:45
  • In the case of an older lease agreement which might not have considered the ridiculous possibility of people bringing their pets to work, I could potentially see this is a case of, "if you ask, the answer is no." If you really want to bring your pet to work, don't do anything that could cause the question to be relayed to the property manager. Rather, see if you can get a copy of the lease terms to review yourself, then proceed with asking your coworkers and manager if they're ok with your pet coming to work. – rob Apr 16 '15 at 8:18
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Many companies have Suggestion box's or a workplace improvement process. I would make the suggestion there.

I would get as much research in support of the idea as I could, write up a summary and reasonable suggestion expectations document, and if you have the support of your coworkers a document with them signed saying they would be in support of provision. It is important to include any concerns or dissent among your coworkers as your management will like find out anyway. Better to try to address them head on than to try and hide your flaws. If management finds out you attempted to hide the division, they are more likely to suspect other hidden issues.

Be aware that many people suffer from pet allergies. I suspect that if your office has more than 10 people that one of them suffers from them to some degree. Many people like myself have mild allergies, but will not object to a pet friendly policy so long as it provides some restrictions that would keep your pets out of my work area.

You should also consider that pets need to eliminate their waste. Make sure your building makes this process possible. If you are on the 30th floor of a downtown building then taking several trips outside and then to the park each day is not going to be conducive to this type of policy.

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Unless you're talking about more-or-less immobile pets (like a small fish or turtle tank), you'll have a variety of problems (some of which were already mentioned):

  • waste elimination
  • smell
  • feeding
  • watering
  • allergens
  • noise (all dogs bark - unless you've clipped the vocal chords)
  • keeping it "contained" (are you really going to crate your cat next to your desk all day?)
  • safety (from having to evacuate the iguana in a fire drill to making sure no-one trips over the cage or animal)
  • regulations (eg OSHA requirements)

If you deal will all of those (and, I'm sure, others I've missed), then and only then can you think about bringing it up with your boss.

As others said, make sure you get buy-in from your coworkers! For example, I despise cats - I'm allergic and I don't like them. If you wanted to bring your cat into an office I worked in, you'd get an adamant "no" from me :)

It might be a good idea to get buy-in from the staff and then propose an office "pet" - like a fish tank - that everyone can enjoy, and someone (or ones) take care of some type of schedule (like a doctor or dentist office may).

For people like me who frequent work from home

If you're spouse/roommate/SO is OK with it - then bingo: you have a pet in the "workplace"

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Let the boss know that you heard a news article about how more companies are trying to create better work envirionments by allowing staff to bring pets into work. You were wondering what his thoughts were on this and if he would be open to the idea.

Make it clear that you will do the leg work of surveying staff to find out what the concensensus was for or against it as well as work with HR to create solid policies and guidelines for how the new perk would work. Finally offer to run it as month long trial period where you could collect feedback for the boss so he could make the final decisison if it was working or not.

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