A survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association revealed that there were approximately 70 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in the United States in 2011 [1
]. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed considered their dog or cat to be a part of their family. Dogs are no longer confined to the home environment; they are also appearing in increasing numbers in the workplace for assistance with a disability, emotional support, or even companionship [2
]. For example, prominent companies, such as Google and Amazon, allow employees to bring their pet dogs to work [3
], and the Friday following Father’s Day each year has been designated “Take Your Dog To Work Day” since 1999 [4
]. The 2015 Society for Human Resource Management’s Employee Benefits survey found that 8% of respondents reported that their workplaces permitted pets, an increase from 5% in 2013 [5
]. In addition to pet dogs, service dogs may also be present in work environments to assist individuals with a disability. Despite the increasing prevalence of dogs in the workplace, there is a dearth of scientific evidence regarding the impact of dogs on performance, employee relations, workplace culture, and worker health and safety. The present paper addresses the potential benefits, concerns, and challenges of accommodating dogs in the workplace and highlights several factors and requisite conditions that can be considered by employers, employees, and human resource personnel when deciding to accept a dog in the workplace. Gaps in current knowledge, directions for future research studies, and considerations for human resource personnel are also addressed.
1. Types of Dogs in the Workplace
Dogs may be present in contemporary work settings for various reasons, but it is most common perhaps to see a service dog accompany an employee with a disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Titles II and III, service dogs are individually trained to perform work or tasks to assist an individual with a disability [6
]. The nature of the disability may be physical, as with a mobility, visual, or hearing impairments, or it may be psychological, as with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or panic disorder. In cases involving a physical disability, a service dog may be trained to help an individual use a wheelchair, retrieve items, open doors, navigate corridors and streets, alert for alarms, and so on. With psychological disabilities, such as panic disorder, a service dog may be trained to perform tasks that have therapeutic benefits, such as lying across an individual’s lap during a panic attack to reduce the duration of the attack and associated symptoms of anxiety. According to federal law, service dogs constitute a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability in employment settings under Title I of the ADA [6
]. An emotional support animal, a pet that is not specially trained but provides emotional support to an individual with a disability, may also constitute a reasonable accommodation in the workplace under Title I.
A visitation dog is another type of dog frequently seen in work settings. Visitation animals, in general, refer to animals that accompany their owners on visits to healthcare and educational settings to socialize with patients or students [7
]. Visitation animals are usually dogs, but they can also be other animals including but not limited to cats [8
], birds [9
], and horses [10
]. It is common to see visitation animals in healthcare settings, such as pediatric hospitals [11
], psychiatric hospitals [15
], palliative care centers [21
], and nursing homes [25
]. In educational settings, visitation animals are often present in elementary schools [27
] colleges [31
], and libraries [33
]. In most cases, visitation animals are present in a setting for a few hours a day or week, but they may also be a constant presence. Resident dogs may live in a facility or come to work every day with an employee [36
]. Resident dogs are common in nursing homes, child advocacy centers, and courtrooms [38
Therapy dogs can also be found in workplaces. A therapy dog assists a professional service provider (often in a healthcare setting) in the treatment or rehabilitation of a patient or client [7
]. These dogs can be found accompanying occupational therapists [39
], psychotherapists [41
], speech-language pathologists, physical therapists [42
] and other professionals in the performance of their job duties. In an occupational therapy setting, for example, a therapy dog can help improve a patient’s gross motor skills through encouraging exercises such as grooming the dog, throwing a ball, or walking with assistance from the dog [43
]. In a psychotherapy setting, the dog may help the therapist develop rapport with a client [44
] or facilitate child therapy [45
In other cases, employers are establishing pet-friendly workplaces that permit well-behaved dogs regardless of an employee’s disability status. For example, Google, Amazon, and Etsy have well-publicized policies permitting their employees to bring their dogs to work. In some cases, on-site accommodations are provided for care and welfare of the dogs, including dog parks [46
]. At the Seattle headquarters of Amazon, for example, there are dog-sized water fountains next to the normal fountains, containers of dog treats at the reception desks, and waste-bag dispensers outside along the paths between buildings [47
Although they may be present in some workplaces, this review does not include some categories of assistance animals including public or military service animals (e.g., police dogs, military working dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, etc.) or sporting, recreational, agricultural activity animals (e.g., herding dogs, livestock guard dogs, etc.) [7
]. These types of assistance animals have limited interactions with the public or spend limited time within places of business. For example, police dogs spend the majority of their time with their primary handlers and not in office settings [48
]. Additionally, policies and procedures for the care and training for many types of public or military service animals have already been developed by city and state police departments [49
2. Accommodating Dogs in the Workplace
When considering the prospect of dogs in the workplace, it is important to know in which situations dogs are discretionary and in which situations dogs are a legal accommodation. Employers are obligated to allow dogs only in select circumstances [51
]. An employee generally does not have a legal argument for bringing a dog to work other than as an effective accommodation solution for a functional limitation associated with a disability. According to Title I of the ADA [6
], employers must make “reasonable accommodations,” in the workplace for individuals with disabilities. A reasonable accommodation is defined as a modification or an adjustment to a job or the work environment that allows an employee with a disability to perform essential job functions [52
]. Service dogs (and even emotional support animals, because there is no specific definition of service animal under Title I) can be considered a reasonable accommodation, however, the term reasonable is important in this discussion. A service dog is not permitted into a workplace unconditionally. Employers may have the right to deny a service dog access to the workplace if the dog constitutes an “undue hardship,” defined as an act that requires significant difficulty or expense or fundamentally alters the nature of the business [52
]. For example, if an employee working in the clean room of a semiconductor fabrication plant requests that she be allowed to bring her service dog to work with her, the employer may consider this accommodation an undue hardship because the presence of the dog would fundamentally alter or compromise the dust-free manufacturing environment.
The broader issue of access and the law is an important consideration for employers because the needs of the individual with the service dog are often weighed against potential adverse effects of the presence of the dog. For example, consider a situation in which an employee with a service dog brings the dog to an office setting as a reasonable accommodation for a disability, and a co-worker in an adjacent cubicle has a severe allergy to dogs. Because the dog is a service dog, and unless the accommodation constitutes an undue hardship to the business, the employer will consider reasonable accommodations which may include, for example, modifying the work environment (e.g., moving one employee to an alternate work site) or rearranging work schedules (e.g., permitting the employees to work alternate shifts or telework). It is important to note that the ADA only applies to a service dog or other animal that assists a person with a disability in eliminating or mitigating barriers to completing essential work tasks. If the dog is a visitation therapy dog or a pet, employers are not obligated to make any accommodations, and thus the dog could be banned from the workplace. Awareness and understanding of the legal obligations of employers under the ADA and relevant state laws are critical to ensuring that both the employee with a disability and co-workers are treated fairly when accommodations are considered and implemented [53
]. For example, according the Revised Code Title 49 Section 60.180 of Washington State, it is unfair to refuse to hire someone because they have a service dog or to fire someone because they obtain one. Other states specify provisions for the use of leave to acquire or train a service dog (e.g., Texas Government Code Title 6 Section 661.910).
3. Research on the Effects of Dogs on Mental Health and Well-Being in Humans
An employer’s decision to accept a dog in the workplace ought to take into account the potential impacts to the health, safety, and well-being of co-workers, regardless of whether the decision accommodates an employee with a disability or fulfills the employer’s desire to create a pet-friendly workspace. When an employee brings a dog to work, whether as a service dog or pet, the effects on the workplace extend beyond the employee. Indeed, the entire business milieu, including other co-workers, managers, maintenance and custodial staff, and customers or clients, may be affected by the presence of the dog. Some effects may be positive. For example, empirical evidence supports the notion that dogs may provide social support [54
], improve performance, and increase social interactions. However, there may be other aspects to be considered related to health, safety, interpersonal, and cultural issues. Although there is a dearth of definitive research studies on this topic, researchers have studied the impact of dogs in the areas of social support and stress reduction, performance, health and safety, and social interactions. The following sections highlight major findings that may be taken into account in decisions to accommodate dogs in the workplace.
3.1. Social Support and Stress Reduction
One potential benefit of dogs in the workplace is that they provide an additional source of social support for the employee. The term “social support” is often used to describe the mechanisms by which relationships with other people buffer individuals from stress [55
]. For example, increased social support was associated with lower levels of depression and better job performance in a survey of 240 hospital workers [56
], whereas low social support at work has been associated with diagnoses of depression and anxiety [57
]. In a qualitative study, social support was identified as a key factor in whether people with serious mental illness return to work or remain employed [58
Researchers investigating the role of pets in buffering stress reported that pets may serve as a source of social support, perhaps more effectively than a spouse or close friends. For example, Allen et al. [54
] compared the effects of the presence of a spouse or a family pet on individuals’ cardiovascular responses to a stressful task. Blood pressure and heart rate were recorded during a cold-pressor task (submerging a hand in ice water) and a mental-arithmetic task under one of three conditions: alone (control condition), in the presence of a spouse, or in the presence of a pet. During the pre-task baseline periods and the tasks, heart rate and blood pressure were significantly lower when a pet was present than when a spouse was present. Furthermore, performance of the mental-arithmetic task had the fewest errors in the condition with a pet present. Similar studies have found that the presence of a dog reduced skin conductance responses [59
] and salivary cortisol [60
] to a significantly greater degree than that of a human friend.
The nonevaluative (i.e., nonjudgmental) role of service dogs or pets may be an important contributing factor to their therapeutic effects. Although not directly studied with dogs, similar physiological effects have been obtained in studies with a friend present and when the experimental design limited the possible evaluative role by the friend. For example, Kamarck et al. [61
] administered a mental arithmetic task and a concept formation task to 39 women while recording their heart rate and blood pressure. The women performed these tasks either alone or in the presence of a friend. To reduce the real or perceived evaluative role of the friend, the friend wore headphones that played white noise and filled out questionnaires during the tasks. The women in the friend group had significantly smaller increases in heart rate during both tasks than those who completed the tasks alone. For instance, during the mental arithmetic task, heart rate increased an average of 8 beats per minute for the friend group versus 18 beats per minute for the alone group. Although this experiment did not directly compare nonevaluative and evaluative support by the friend, the findings support the notion that the nonevaluative role of service dogs or pets may be an important contributing factor to their therapeutic effects.
Other studies comparing only the presence versus the absence of a dog have observed lower stress responses when the dog is present than when it is absent. For example, Friedmann et al. [62
] used a quiet-talk-quiet (QTQ) protocol during which older adults with hypertension sat quietly for two minutes, talked to the experimenter for two minutes, and then sat quietly again for two minutes. The QTQ protocol was conducted in the presence and absence of a friendly, unfamiliar dog. On average, systolic and diastolic blood pressure was 7 and 2 mmHg lower, respectively, when participants spoke with the dog present than when the dog was absent.
Two studies have examined the effects of dogs in the workplace on stress and well-being. In one study of the effects of dogs in the workplace on employees’ self-reported stress, employees who did and did not bring dogs to work completed a perceived stress survey several times throughout the work day [63
]. Employees who did not bring dogs to work had significantly higher perceived stress than employees who did. To assess differences in stress, employees who brought their dogs to work were instructed to leave them at home two days a week during the one-week study period. On days when employees in the dog group did not bring their dogs to work, their stress levels increased throughout the day, matching the pattern of employees who never brought dogs to work. In another study in which participants who did and did not bring their pets to work were asked about the psychological and organizational effects of dogs at work, the perceived benefits of dogs at work were greater for those who brought their dogs to work compared with those who did not bring their dogs and those who did not own pets [64
]. Besides the apparent benefits of dog–human companionship at work, these results suggest that the perceived benefits of dogs in the workplace may also depend on an existing relationship with the dog present in the workplace. Indeed, the topic of dog-human relationships or bonding is receiving more research attention [65
] and this work may have important implications for understanding the benefits of dogs to employees’ stress and well-being.
The aforementioned studies suggest that the presence of a dog is associated with reduction in physiological indicators of stress (even more effectively than friends and family in some cases) and improved performance, but other studies have not found such effects. In one study, 32 college students were asked to complete mental arithmetic problems and the Thematic Apperception Test (in which the subject interprets ambiguous pictures) while heart rate and blood pressure were measured [66
]. Half of the students completed the tasks in the presence of their pet dogs, and the other half completed them alone. There were no statistically significant differences between the two groups for heart rate or blood pressure during the tasks. Other similar studies have failed to find significant differences in physiological measures of stress in the presence and absence of animals [66
]. These inconsistencies in findings may be due to small sample sizes, the use of insufficiently stressful stimuli, or lack of control for other potentially influential factors. Additionally, in many studies, the physical movements involved in petting and talking to the animals may have increased the blood pressure and heart rates of the participants [69
], obscuring any potential stress-relieving effects. It may also be the case, however, that dogs do not provide acute decreases in stress and improvements in performance.
3.2. Task Performance
Besides evidence of stress reduction in the presence of dogs, some studies also reported performance-related changes. A performance-enhancement effect of pets was found in a study of pets and cardiovascular reactivity. Allen et al. [73
] randomly assigned forty-eight individuals with hypertension to a pet group or a non-pet group. Individuals in both groups began taking hypertension medication, but only those assigned to the pet group were instructed to obtain a pet. Both groups performed stress-inducing tasks (arithmetic and speech) before starting the medication and obtaining the pet and after six months. For the pet group, the tasks were administered with the pet present. Subjects who had acquired pets showed significantly greater improvements in their performance of the arithmetic and speech tasks compared with those who had not. There were also significant physiological differences between the groups at the six-month follow-up; those with pets had statistically significantly lower mean heart rates (79 vs. 88 beats per minute (arithmetic) and 79 vs. 93 beats per minute (speech)) and lower mean systolic (130 vs. 139 mmHg (arithmetic) and 126 vs. 139 mmHg (speech)) and diastolic blood pressure (90 vs. 95 mmHg (arithmetic) and 89 vs. 99 mmHg (speech)). The researchers frame these performance-enhancing and stress-decreasing responses in the presence of pets as a form of social support.
3.3. Social Interactions
Another potential benefit of dogs in the workplace is that they may have a positive effect on the social interactions among employees. Anecdotal reports suggest that pets enhance the social atmosphere at work [74
], and research conducted outside of the workplace indicates that dogs can increase the frequency of conversations among people [75
]. Other studies have been conducted to assess the role of dogs in changing the interactions between strangers and among groups of people who are familiar with one another.
Researchers have taken an experimental approach in assessing the role of dogs in changing social interactions with acquaintances and strangers. Several studies have shown that when an individual is accompanied by a dog, the frequency of social encounters with strangers increases. One such study compared the approaches of strangers when a female confederate (an actor who is part of the experiment and knows the aims of the study) was alone and when she was accompanied by different types of dogs (e.g., adult Rottweiler, adult Labrador retriever, or juvenile Labrador retriever), a teddy bear, or a potted plant [75
]. Over 30% of strangers talked to the female confederate when she was accompanied by an adult or juvenile Labrador retriever compared to less than 5% of strangers when she was alone or accompanied by the teddy bear, potted plant, or Rottweiler. Another study had the confederate take on a more active role, either soliciting strangers for money, dropping coins on the ground, or asking young women for their phone numbers [76
]. In all three scenarios, strangers were more receptive to the confederate when the dog was present than when it was absent. Additionally, studies conducted with individuals who use wheelchairs, a subset of the population who often benefit from service dogs, have found that strangers are more likely to engage in conversations with them when accompanied by a dog [77
Because workers are more likely to encounter familiar co-workers and acquaintances than strangers, it is unclear whether the research on social interactions among strangers is relevant. To date, there have been no studies conducted on the presence of dogs in the workplace and its effects on the frequency of social interactions among employees; however, results from the animal-assisted activities literature may inform this unexplored research area. In animal-assisted activities, visitation therapy dogs are taken to nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and other settings to visit the residents, patients, or students [78
]. Like co-workers in a workplace, patients in nursing homes and hospitals encounter one another on a daily basis.
In a typical research study examining the effects of an animal visitation program on social behavior (i.e., initiating conversation, smiling, laughing, etc.), interactions during animal-assisted activity sessions are compared with control sessions in which the dog is absent. In one nursing-home study, during 30-min sessions observers recorded the frequency of a variety of behaviors, including non-attentive behavior (e.g., sleeping or reading), attentive and non-attentive listening, and social behaviors towards other residents or towards the dog [79
]. Verbal and non-verbal interactions towards other residents occurred twice as often when the dog was present than when it was absent. Similar studies also found increases in social interactions with the implementation of animal visitation programs [80
One of the few studies that examined the perceptions of the impact of pets in the workplace supports the hypothesis that dogs can increase social interactions and improve mood. College students were presented with a picture of an office with a dog, cat, or no animal superimposed into the picture [83
]. They were asked to imagine that they were employees in this office and then answer several survey questions about employee satisfaction and mood. Students who viewed the image that included a dog or cat perceived that their mood would be better and that there would be a greater number of social interactions than those students who viewed the picture without an animal. In a similar study by the authors, college students rated a picture of a professor’s office with a dog, cat, or no animal superimposed onto it [2
]. When there was a dog in the office, students perceived the professor to be friendlier than when a cat or no animal was present.
One potential disadvantage of increased social interactions among employees is the possible distraction from an individual’s work tasks. Based on the results of the studies described above, it is plausible to conclude that a dog in a workplace might invite unsolicited social attention from other employees, which in turn serves as a distraction from work tasks. It is also possible that the initial novelty of having a dog in the workplace may lead to a temporary decrease in productivity, but, as employees habituate or become accustomed to the dog’s presence, the level of distraction may subside. We are not aware of any research studies on the impact of dogs on workplace productivity.
3.4. Limitations of Research Evidence
Although there has been a great number of research studies conducted in the area of human–animal interactions, there are important caveats to the conclusions that can be drawn from the results. For example, studies on the effects of dogs on social interactions and stress primarily consisted of laboratory studies. The generalizability of laboratory studies can be limited due to the contrived nature and high degree of control in laboratory settings; therefore, the results of these studies should be interpreted with caution. Most of the studies also consisted of single, one-hour or shorter sessions, and thus long-term effects are unknown. It is possible that the short-term reductions in stress are transient or disappear altogether after frequent or regular exposure to a dog in the environment.
Methodological limitations are characteristic of other studies, especially those conducted on animal-assisted interventions and activities in healthcare settings (e.g., nursing homes). The common methodological shortcomings in these studies have been discussed elsewhere [84
]. For example, many studies fail to include control groups, randomize group assignment, standardize the therapy sessions, and collect measures of inter-observer agreement [84
]. Until methodologically stronger studies are conducted, the conclusions drawn from studies that have been conducted should be tentative at best.
5. Considerations for Human Resource Management Personnel
Until the knowledge gaps are filled by more empirical research and reports of successes and failures, human resource personnel can carefully consider the wide range of issues that are associated with the decision to accept dogs in the workplace. The potential benefits and appropriateness of dogs in the workplace can be evaluated with respect to employee well-being, job performance, health and safety, and social interactions. Human resource management personnel may frame their policies and practices around an understanding of important differences among introducing a visitation dog, opening the workplace to employees’ pets, and accommodating an employee with a service dog. Exploratory research on service dogs in the workplace has called for caution in implementing employment site policies and procedures [124
]. A service dog team can work directly with the employer to ameliorate the concerns in the process of requesting an accommodation for a dog to assist with essential functions of the job. It is important to protect privacy and minimize potential stigma associated with disclosure of details related to a person’s disability and avoid policies that would create undue hardship for an employee [53
]. For the employee with a disability, the dog is not a pet or in the workplace for the benefit of all employees but a working dog that is part of an essential support system.
Based on the current, albeit limited evidence base, we offer the following specific considerations for human resource personnel tasked with addressing the inclusion of pets in the workplace in six topic areas of diversity, employee relations, ethics and corporate responsibility, organizational and employee development, safety and security, and legal policy (see Table 1
). Related to issues of diversity, it is important to recognize the cultural or religious perspectives of employees toward dogs and, if possible, seek appropriate accommodations for their beliefs and preferences. This can be accomplished only if employers are informed. Thus, we suggest that employers develop a procedure to assess employees’ attitudes, beliefs, and opinions concerning the presence of dogs in the workplace. The method of assessment can be formal (e.g., surveys) or informal (e.g., focus groups), but conducting them regularly can help capture any changes in employee perceptions. Administering a “pet attitude” questionnaire, such as the Pet Attitude Scale [125
] or the Measure of Human–Animal Bond [126
], may be a useful tool to assess an individual’s attitudes towards dogs and other animals. Additionally, an article by Cash and Gray [127
] provides a framework for accommodating different religions in the workplace that may be helpful.
Allowing pets in the workplace undoubtedly affects employee relations. To avoid potential conflicts, it is important to devise a strategy for incorporating employee input into decisions involving dogs in the workplace. Some employees may be hesitant to express their reservations or concerns because of fear of judgment by other employees, so an avenue for anonymous submission of feedback may be appropriate. One approach for handling concerns that has been adopted at some pet-friendly workplaces where there are multiple pet dogs present is the creation of a “Dog Committee”, which is a special committee of employees to evaluate issues and concerns related to the dogs as they arise. Milgate et al. [135
] describe best practices for safety committees based on the results of a literature review, and their recommendations may be helpful in defining the role and duties of a workplace dog committee. Some of their recommendations include strong management commitment, effective communication among all stakeholders, and input from a health and safety professional. Additionally, to accommodate workers with dog-related fears or phobias, employers could provide them with an opportunity to privately disclose their fears or anxiety to their supervisors or human resources personnel. Accordingly, the employer may wish to designate “dog-free” areas to ease the anxiety of some individuals. The employer or human resource managers will need to determine at what point the objections of one or more employees to the inclusion of dogs are sufficient to limit or exclude dogs from the workplace.
Ethical and animal welfare concerns are important considerations for companies. Accordingly, the development of policies and procedures for the treatment and care of dogs in the workplace is an important step towards ensuring that dogs are treated humanely. This holds true for service dogs and would support successful integration of a service dog team [53
]. Although “best practices” for the development of such guidelines have yet to be elucidated, the process can involve collaboration among all stakeholders in an organization, including executives, managers, supervisors, employees (especially if the employee is a service dog handler), and (if appropriate) customers. Although published guidance specific to the care of dogs in pet-friendly workplaces is limited, there are resources from other arenas that may be helpful. The Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals may be helpful in understanding humane and accepted practices and standards to ensure animal welfare. Although The Guide and other similar resources are intended for research and laboratory settings, they address many of the important animal welfare and employee health and safety concerns. Additionally, welfare guidelines for therapy and assistance animals may also aid in the development of policies and procedures [122
]. To decrease the risk of dog bites or other safety and health risk caused by ill-mannered dogs, employers may wish to require that all pet dogs pass a temperament test, such as the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen Test [123
]. Dogs that pass the test have demonstrated to a certified evaluator that it can calmly accept a friendly stranger, walk on a loose leash, and remain calm when separated from its owner.
The popularity of pet-friendly workplaces seems to hinge on expectations of positive benefits to employee morale and well-being. However, until these expectations are confirmed through actual experience or empirical research studies, employers may consider implementing a system for regularly assessing the impact of their own policies. We suggest that companies use anonymous surveys, focus groups, interviews, direct observations, or other methods to help assess and monitor over time the impact of dogs in the workplace. These tools or methods could assess a broad range of important employee and organizational outcomes, such as employee attitudes, perceptions, and morale, employee performance and productivity, frequency, duration, and quality of interpersonal and social interactions, absenteeism, and turnover rates. Furthermore, assessment of these outcomes can inform a continuous improvement process, which we suggest to address any concerns that arise and to promote or maximize the overall effectiveness of the program at both employee and organizational levels. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)’s Total Worker Health website offers a list of resources for implementing and evaluating workplace health programs [131
]. Resources include the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Healthy Worksite Program (NHWP) Health and Safety Climate Survey (INPUTS) [136
], a short survey used to assess employee perceptions of the work environment, and the Center for Promotion and Health in the New England Workplace Healthy Workplace Participatory Program [137
], an interactive assessment and planning process for workplace health programs, among others.
The safety and security of employees is always a high priority, thus it is important to establish policies and procedures to address employee health and safety concerns associated with dogs in the workplace. These policies and procedures could identify and describe the potential hazards and risks, specify appropriate safety control measures, and identify whether any special skills or employee training is required. At a minimum, we would suggest specific procedures to help prevent or reduce incidence of slips, trips, and falls in areas where dogs are permitted, reduce the risks of zoonotic disease transmission (e.g., require the owners to administer monthly flea and tick treatments), and facilitate the safe evacuation of employees and dogs during emergencies. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s website has guidance on OSHA standards, hazards and solutions, and hazard evaluation that may be helpful [132
]. For example, employers can use the Hazard Identification Training Tool to help them learn the core concepts of hazard identification. Training materials for dog owners could be developed to ensure that they are educated on their responsibilities in maintaining a safe and healthy work environment.
Because the adoption of dog-friendly policies can pose several questions and concerns about legal liabilities, it is important to understand the federal, state, and local laws regarding the presences of dogs in public spaces in addition to the accommodation of service animals for individuals with disabilities. Important considerations include ensuring that all parties carry appropriate liability insurance policies and ensuring that dog owners have complied with all state- or municipality-mandated taxes, vaccinations, and identification for their dogs before granting them access to the workplace. Awareness of applicable leash and identification laws in the state or municipality are also critical, and employees would benefit from receiving clear guidelines for handling the dog when they are coming in and out of work and when taking their dogs outside for breaks. To ensure that practices related to considering requests for accommodation of a service dog are compliant with relevant laws, we suggest that employers seek legal counsel or contact the Job Accommodation Network, a federally-funded resource that offers free guidance to employers [133
6. Knowledge Gaps and Future Research Directions
Although there may be benefits to allowing dogs in the workplace, many questions still remain about the short- and long-term effects of dogs in work settings. Efforts to bridge the knowledge gaps in these areas will help employers and human resource personnel make informed decisions about the potential benefits and challenges of accommodating dogs in the workplace. The issue is complex and requires the efforts of multiple professional and scientific disciplines. A list of knowledge gaps and suggested research topics for each discipline appears in Table 2
. Because the presence of a dog in the workplace is likely to impact organizational policies, business functions, and interpersonal dynamics, human resource management personnel will be central to decision and policy making. Perhaps the greatest need is for tools that are designed to assess the impact of dogs in the workplace on employees or business operations. Currently, there are few, if any, tools or methods specifically designed to assess the impact of dogs on organizational operations and productivity, employee attitudes and perceptions, or employee social interactions. Another fruitful topic for research is to review and analyze the experiences of organizations that allow dogs in the workplace. A better accounting of these experiences across many different sizes and types of business can help employers and human resource personnel benchmark successful organizational policies, procedures, and practices.
The addition of dogs to a work setting can also create concerns related to occupational health and safety, such as potential disease transmission from animals to humans and the introduction of new workplace hazards and risks (e.g., bites, slips, trips, and falls). Because little information is available on the incidence or prevalence of zoonotic disease transmission in workplaces with pet-friendly policies, researchers should conduct targeted surveillance and epidemiological research studies on the safety and health impact of dogs in the workplace. Also needed are evaluations of existing company practices and policies regarding prophylactic measures implemented by employers to prevent zoonoses, such as regular flea and tick treatments, veterinary evaluation of stool samples for parasites, regular vaccinations, and other such protocols. Research is also needed to document the incidence and prevalence of injury-related hazards and risks associated with dogs in the workplace. Surveillance and epidemiology studies can help to reveal the nature and extent of any adverse safety and health consequences and evaluate the effectiveness of various engineering or administrative controls for reducing the hazards and risks associated with dogs in the workplace.
Seeking a better understanding of the human–animal bond and the many purported psychosocial and organizational benefits of dogs or other pets in the workplace offers other fruitful areas for research. There have been a large number of studies conducted on the effects of dogs on the mental health of children [138
], older adults [89
], and patients in psychiatric care settings [19
], but there has been comparatively less research conducted on the effects of dogs on adult well-being in the workplace. More research studies are needed to understand the impact of dog-friendly policies on employees both before and after the introduction of dogs on measures of perceived stress and work load, performance and productivity, employee relations, organizational climate/culture, absenteeism, and other employee and organizational outcomes. Another research question concerns the long-term maintenance of any positive effects of dogs in the workplace. Some have raised the notion that the introduction of dogs produces only short-term improvements in health and well-being, and that the positive aspects dissipate as the novelty of the dogs’ presence wears off [139
]. Longitudinal studies, in which impact is assessed over time, would help to address this question. A final research question concerns the impact of dog-friendly corporate policies on public perceptions. The reporting of pet-friendly corporate policies of companies in the popular press [140
] has perhaps contributed to positive public reactions, but more research is needed to compare similar businesses with and without dog-friendly policies to better understand whether these policies support a competitive advantage, not only in relation to consumer preferences but also by attracting and retaining the most qualified employees.