Surveys show that pet-friendly companies increasingly attract and retain good workers.
“Society’s attitudes towards pets are changing. We’ve gone from keeping pets outside to putting them in our beds. We are more pet-friendly than ever, but our institutions haven’t caught up,” said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI), in a recent interview. Increasingly, organizations see pets as appealing to potential employees and customers/clients/residents. In one survey, 87% of employers indicated that identifying as dog-friendly has helped them attract and retain more talent. At the same time, almost two-thirds of employees said they would choose a dog-friendly employer over one that’s not.
In post-acute and long-term care (PALTC), specifically, communities are starting to see pets as key to worker and resident satisfaction. In a recent survey of senior centers, 11% self-identified as pet-friendly workplaces where staff could bring pets to work, and most respondents said they would be willing to consider adding animal programming of some kind in the future. Nearly half (40%) said they were “very interested” in this. Only 6% said they weren’t at all interested.
The decision to be pet-friendly and what parameters you will establish can’t be made in a vacuum. Fortunately, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Last year, HABRI partnered with the National Council on Aging’s National Institute of Senior Centers to create “Older Adults and Animal Programming,” a handbook with sample pet-related policies for providers based on clinical evidence and best practices. Among some of the issues addressed in this guide include:
· Definitions of service, therapy, and companion animals. It is important to comply with federal, state, and local laws to provide “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities, but it is also essential to determine what kinds of animals you will permit for what purposes. It is important to note that therapy animals aren’t necessarily limited to dogs and cats. News stories have documented incidents of people with birds, rodents, and other pets certified as therapy animals. Your policy might state that you don’t restrict any type of animal as long as it is allowed under the law, is trained to perform therapy- or service-related tasks, and doesn’t put the safety of others at risk.
· Control of animals. Your policies should address what areas animals have access to and under what circumstances. They should detail how (e.g., leash and collar or crate) animals will be secured/controlled and who will be responsible for the animal’s care and behavior.
· Health. The health and safety of residents and staff must be considered first and foremost. Animals should be documented by a veterinarian as healthy and have all necessary vaccinations. Keep updated copies of this information on file.
· Responsibility for animal upkeep/behavior. Policies should address who (e.g., the owner) will be responsible for cleaning up after animals and disposing of waste and debris, as well as protocols if the animal causes any damage or injury.
· Training/certification. Of course, any animal that comes into your community must meet certain standards of temperament and behavior. However, if specific training and/or certification is necessary, this should be detailed in your policies.
Download the handbook here.
There is a growing body of literature documenting the positive role pets can play in the workplace, including increasing productivity, enhancing collaboration, reducing stress, and improving morale. While pets may seem like an impractical proposition, you need to consider if you are potentially losing good prospects or employees because the competition is pet-friendly. It may be an easier, more positive, and less disruptive effort than you think.