By Princess Jones
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work out of a co-working office space in Brooklyn. It was an interesting space, where solopreneurs, startups, and co-ops all shared space. People ran non-traditional organizations, from the business ideas to the operational hours to the dress codes. And best of all, many people brought their dogs to work.
I’ve always loved a pet friendly business. They’re good for employees and consumers. But they also come with a host of issues for the business owner to consider. Should your small business become pet friendly?
Pet friendly workplaces are great for your employees. Studies show that 75 to 95 percent of the time, pet friendly businesses have improved morale. Employees believe that you care about their quality of work life when you give them the option to bring a pet into work. They also tend to experience better work-life balance because bringing a pet to work makes the workplace feel more “homey.” Employees are more likely to be able to work longer hours and feel comfortable in the environment. Pet friendly businesses tend to have an easier time finding and keeping invested employees.
If you run a brick and mortar business that has customers coming in, being pet friendly means your customers can bring their pets in when they’re shopping. Pet friendly stores are few and far between. You’ll stand out in your community as a place where pet lovers can spend time without having to leave Fido at home.
Is your brand related to pets in some way? Do you have a dog treat bakery? Did you call your cafe something related to pets, like The Blue Dalmation Cafe? People may assume you’re pet friendly from the get-go. If that’s the case, you’ll want to err on the side of allowing pets for employees or consumers alike to avoid any possible PR snafus.
The other side of having a pet friendly business is that there are a lot of considerations to be made. Safety is the biggest one. If two of your employees bring in dogs that don’t get along, there might be some disruption in your conference room. Your bookstore’s cat could decide to make a new litter box over in the self-help section. You’ll need to put a safety policy in place to serve as a guideline for what animals are allowed, what behavior is acceptable, and what steps your business will take to keep everyone safe.
Legalities are another concern. Is it even legal for you to allow animals inside your cafe? City health codes often prohibit the presence of animals while is food is being prepared or served. Statewide or city ordinances may also limit the number of animals allowed in certain spaces. You need to consult with a legal representative to make sure you’re following all of the rules to avoid unnecessary tickets and fines from the local government.
And finally, liability is something you should think about before you decide to become a pet friendly business. What are you responsible for legally in the event something goes wrong? If a customer’s dog bites someone are you legally responsible? What if one of your employee’s spider monkey gets injured at the company picnic? Once you’ve worked out the liability concerns, it’s time to cover your liability with insurance. Keep in mind that some insurers won’t cover you if you have certain breeds of animals on your property. And if they will insure you, it will likely come at a high premium payment. You’ll need to take into account all of these factors before you make the decision whether to become a pet friendly business.