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Pets In the Office

In the dog-eat-dog world of business, there's a growing trend at some companies. Workers are bringing their pets to the office.

Chip Paucek, who produces educational videos and television programs, has been taking his golden retriever, Hoss, to work for the last five years. Paucek and Hoss visited The Early Show and talked with Co-Anchor Jane Clayson.

The dog has became the office mascot, says Paucek. "He brings a lot of emotion and people love it. He's very relaxed."

But Paucek, as co-president of his company, has the freedom to bring Hoss to the office if he wishes. Not everybody can bring their pet to work.

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"A lot of it depends on the dog," says Paucek, who explains that Hoss is not a rowdy dog.

"He just hangs out," explains Paucek. "He's easy to get along with."

Hoss has free rein at the office. When Paucek is away on trips, "My wife brings him in and drops him off at the office," Paucek says.

While there are plenty of positives to pets in the workplace, there are also many legal issues to consider. John Challenger, CEO of an international placement company, agrees that the trend of bringing pets to the work place is really growing.

"More and more companies in this tight labor market are trying to make their working place employee-friendly and many are looking at bringing pets into the workplace," says Challenger

He points out, however, that there are serious issues that employers and employees need to explore before they adopt a pets-in-the-office policy.

"One of the things that the companies must do, before they jump into a policy like that, is take a poll of their employees and find out what they're thinking. If you have certain employees that don't feel comfortable with pets, you might want to rethink the policy."

There are liability questions as well. For example, the company might be liable if a dog or cat bites or scratches another employee.

"The company ought to talk with their attorneys before they put this kind of policy in effect," says Challenger. "The employee needs to understand that if their dog bites someone or the cat scratches someone, it can't be the company's fault."

Allergies are a major deterrent to bringing cats to the office.

"Many people are allergic to cat hair. You have to think, as an employer, will you put them in a certain part of your space. What about people who are afraid of animals? Many don't feel comfortable with them around. Just how many do you want? Do you want cats and dogs and what about birds? What about the noise of birds?"

Paucek admits that when there's more than one pet in the office, "It gets chaotic."

In 1997, the American Animal Hospital Association surveyed 1,225 pet owners. They found that:

  • 21% of those surveyed had taken their pets to work
  • 76% feel guilty about leaving their pets at home while they're on the job
  • 33% said they leve a TV or radio on for their animals

If a company decides to allow pets in the office, they should:
  • poll employees before they let the pets come
  • provide a written policy about pets and list which pets are not welcome in the office
  • establish an off-limits-to-pets area
  • make sure employees bring documents proving pets are vaccinated
  • bar noisy, destructive, or messy animals from the office
  • tell employees to keep control of their animals at all times

If many employees want to bring their pets to the office, the company should make a rotating schedule.

When the pets-in-the-office policy does work, it's great. Paucek says when he and Hoss arrive at work, "I get off the elevator. He goes one way and I go the other. He says hello to the employees. He has his own web page."

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