Dogs in the office: is it legal to welcome pets into the workplace?

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During lockdown, an estimated 3.2million households welcomed new pets. But after an extended period of home working, many found that their animals were simply not used to being ‘home alone’ – prompting a growing trend for dogs joining their owners back in the office.

However, as with any radical change to the working environment, allowing dogs into a commercial setting is something that should only be done after proper consideration.

What are the issues with having dogs in the office?

  1. Lease clauses: Many leases prohibit having animals on the premises. If this is the case, landlords may either agree to a variation or a side letter to the current terms which can relax clauses for limited periods, subject to specific conditions being met. If they do not consent, unfortunately, animals won’t be allowed.
  2. Personal injury: Business owners would be deemed liable if a dog causes injury to any other person on site.  Accidents can lead to lawsuits, so a business’ insurance will cover injuries caused by animals. This coverage will come at a premium, which could make the scheme cost-prohibitive.
  3. Property damage: What if a dog was to damage expensive IT equipment? Pet-owning employees should sign indemnification agreements so that they take responsibility for any costs arising from damages on company property.
Image by PicsbyFran on Pixabay

As a landlord, what should you consider if a tenant wants to allow dogs into the office?

 Landlords should look to include several key conditions within the lease or side-letter when making a commercial space dog-friendly. These should include:

  • Keeping dogs on leads in communal areas;
  • Full vaccination records;
  • Free from fleas and ticks;
  • Limits on numbers.

The lease should enable the landlord to terminate the scheme in the event of any serious incidents. Landlords should also consider increasing security deposits and reviewing indemnification/ waiver provisions to ensure that they are thorough enough to deal with any property misuse.

As a business owner, should you consider if you want to allow dogs in the office?

 Employers have a responsibility to ensure the health of everyone in the workplace. For example, there may be employees who are allergic to dogs, or fearful of them. If there is any evidence that a dog’s presence is detrimental to the wellbeing of any staff, it should not be allowed.

Dogs are struggling with a quiet house

If a business does decide to proceed, a robust pet-friendly policy will be needed, and should include the basic demands stipulated within the lease agreement (outlined above), alongside several other recommendations:

  • Entertainment (provision of chews/ silent toys);
  • Where the animals can be exercised or taken for relief, fed or given water
  • Safe disposal of dog mess;
  • How often pets will be allowed into the office;
  • Any breeds or sizes of dog not permitted;
  • Behavioural expectations;
  • Designated pet-free areas.

Ultimately, the decision lays with the landlord. Many don’t want the added complications of opening up their property to possible damage or liability, irrespective of what the tenant wants.

This is a guest essay by Karen Mason, of Newmanor Law. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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