Animals bring out the kid in all of us.  The relationships are simple and fulfilling, packed with unconditional love, belly rubs, and joy.  Whether at home, at work, or at play, having a furry sidekick alongside always takes the fun up a notch, and that’s great for our stress levels, too.  In fact, a study last year from Harvard Medical School explored the theory that dog owners are actually healthier people, at least psychologically, as dogs are in tune with our emotions offering a sense of acceptance and empowerment while increasing self-esteem.

As a result of this, many businesses are allowing dogs at work, to create culture, relieve stress, and to entice new employees while keep existing employees loyal and happy.  To support this growing need, many property owners are offering pet-friendly workspaces to help attract new tenants, to retain others, and even make a little extra money.  While the benefits seem like a no-brainer, there are some best-practices that should be considered.  Let’s explore the pros and cons of pet-friendly commercial properties.

  1. Make sure you’re covered. Before deciding whether or not to pull the trigger and offer your tenants a pet-friendly workspace, there are a few important boxes to check off your list.  First, your insurance policies should be reviewed and adjusted to ensure that you’re covered should anything happen behaviorally, including acting out against other animals, acting out against other people on the property, or in case of property destruction.  If this changes your premium, this additional cost should be factored into rent increases.
  2. Make sure they’re covered. Encourage your tenant to review their own insurance policies to make sure that their needs are met with their policy owners.  They will appreciate the foresight and also should understand where your policy ends and theirs begins.
  3. Come up with a pet-owner waiver. If your tenant wants to participate in creating a pet-friendly environment, have them sign a lease addendum to make sure that they’re on board with the rules.  You may also want to encourage them to include a waiver with their employees to cover possible allergens as about ten percent of the population is allergic to dogs.
  4. Make sure the space is safe. Does the building have any hazards that need to be addressed?  Just as you’d baby proof your house before bringing home a child, your commercial space should be dog-proofed so that everyone is secure.  This may mean gates around staircases, for example.  Have your tenant review the property with you in person to confirm that the space is safe then make sure they sign a waiver agreeing that you are good to go.
  5. Rental premiums. While increased insurance may mean increased rent, you might want to alternately consider offering a discount to those companies who are not planning to allow pets in the workplace.
  6. Security deposits. Requiring an additional, separate security deposit for pets is nothing new for tenants. But when it comes to a pet-friendly workplace, there may be additional considerations.  Requiring your tenants to provide you with this additional coverage is not out of the question.
  7. Service dogs. Service dogs really fall into a whole separate area of discussion when it comes to animals in the workplace.  Most employers do have the right to deny the request of a disabled employee to bring his or her service animal to work, except under certain conditions.  Service animals must be qualified under the definitions supplied by the ADA (American Disabilities Act).  Service animals cannot interfere with an employee’s ability to do his or her job and cannot result in an unduly burden to the employer.  If an employer is okay with service animals but leases their office space, they do need to ask permission from the building owners before dogs are allowed inside.  Lease agreements should consider this information or be re-negotiated to accommodate or deny any such requests.

Ready to jump in?  If you need help reviewing your lease adjustments or advice with questions to ask your insurance agent regarding updating your coverage to allow for a pet-friendly workplace, we are here to help.