Tayne Law Group in Melville has allowed employees to bring their dogs into the office for the last 5 years. On Friday, Aug. 12, managing director Leslie Tayne said the dogs look forward to it as much as the humans do. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman

If you walk into some local businesses you might be greeted by a wet nose rather than the traditional handshake.

No, not because of seasonal allergies.

Rather, some local employment and HR experts say they’re getting more inquiries from businesses about bringing pets to work, especially since the pandemic.

“I’m seeing more companies asking about it in the past six months,” says Barbara DeMatteo, director of HR consulting at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates in Jericho. “So many people got pets during COVID and are uncomfortable leaving them at home.”

Fur baby boom

According to the ASPCA, close to one in five households acquired a cat or dog since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, which is about 23 million American households.

She’s getting more queries at this point of employers wondering how to navigate requests and what their options are, considering “it could be a retention tool and recruiting tool,” DeMatteo says.

Still, you must tread carefully, she says.

Some employees may not be on board, particularly if there are allergy issues, she says, suggesting, “I’d survey employees to gauge whether or not it would be acceptable.”

Also define what kind of pets you’ll allow, she says, noting she’s seen employers approached to bring in a boa constrictor.

Dogs are the most common.

That’s the case at Tayne Law Group, a debt relief law firm in Melville, where there could be as many as four dogs in the office on any given day, says founder and Managing Director Leslie Tayne.

 Leslie Tayne, founder and managing director of Tayne Law Group, with...

 Leslie Tayne, founder and managing director of Tayne Law Group, with a dog under her desk. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman

That’s because Tayne raises and trains dogs for the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown and its sister organization, Americas VetDogs.

“The dogs have a whole routine,” says Tayne. “They go from person to person for treats.”

Good dog, bad dog

The firm doesn’t have a formal pet policy, but she said everyone understands they must keep barking or rough play under control and keep the “environment clean and safe.”

Another caution: Puppies could bite through computer wires when unattended, Tayne says.

Employees like Lea DeRosa, director of marketing, appreciates a pet-friendly office. DeRosa adopted her now 13-month-old lab, Ellie, last October.

Lea DeRosa, director of marketing at the Tayne Law Group...

Lea DeRosa, director of marketing at the Tayne Law Group law firm, right, is seen with dogs in the office in Melville. Credit: Jennifer S. Altman

“I walk her two to three times a day,” she says. “I get a little mental break and enjoy the weather outside.”

If she had to leave her home, “I’d be worrying about her and it would be more stress for me,” says DeRosa.

Joe DeSimone, Founder/CEO of Edgewood-based Lacrosse Unlimited, which has 46 brick-and-mortar locations including nine on Long Island selling uniforms and gear, says his employees also appreciate having a pet-friendly office.

He allows pets at their headquarters.

“We have at least one dog here all the time,” says DeSimone, who brings his own bulldog, Ruby, to work daily. He said since before the pandemic, employees have gotten puppies and brought them to work until they’re older.

“We’ve been very fortunate and no one’s had an issue with it,” he says.

Joe DeSimone, Founder/CEO of Edgewood-based Lacrosse Unlimited and his bulldog...

Joe DeSimone, Founder/CEO of Edgewood-based Lacrosse Unlimited and his bulldog Ruby, who he brings to the office daily.  Credit: Lacrosse Unlimited

But there have to be ground rules, like if a dog misbehaves, they have to go home, and if it has an accident, it must be promptly cleaned up, DeSimone says.

Nicholas Melito, counsel in labor and employment law at Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone in Mineola, says he advises companies to have a written pet policy outlining do’s and don’t’s.

Obedience to rules

You should also check with your landlord and lease to see if animals are allowed on premise, as well as whether local laws prohibit pets in the workplace for the specific industry, such as restaurants, he says. If pets are allowed, he recommends animal owners provide proof of their vaccinations, like rabies shots.

You could choose to require training for dogs and you may even consider pet-free zones like the break room, Melito says.

He says since the pandemic began, he’s seen an increase in requests from employees at some companies to bring in an emotional support dog. It could be for support in coping with a disability like anxiety or depression.

He said on the plus side, it can be a way to get people to return to the office. But there could be some downsides. Melito offered one example: who is liable if someone gets bitten, the owner or the company? He called it a gray area.

Employers should consider what’s the process to deal with employees who may have allergies and request accommodations, Melito says.

A few years back, said Phil Rugile, director of LaunchPad Huntington, a co-working space for entrepreneurs and startups that allows dogs, a dog kicked off a severe allergy attack for someone working nearby.

That’s not common and for the most part there have been no significant issues, he says.

But he advises dog owners to be honest about their dog’s behavior.

“We’ve had some dogs that after one day, we’ve said clearly this isn’t going to work,” says Rugile.

Fast Fact

In a survey released late last year by LiveCareer, 49% of worker respondents said that a pet-friendly work environment could convince them to take a job offer.

Source: https://tinyurl.com/mr2f2fef

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