Meow! Ruff! Bark! Is Bringing Fido and Kitty to Work Too Much to Handle?

In recent years, the presence of support animals in the workplace has gained significant attention. Emotional support animals and service animals can provide comfort and assistance to employees with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, and specific phobias.  

Allowing these animals in the workplace can greatly enhance employee well-being and productivity. Facility managers play a crucial role in implementing and maintaining a pet-friendly environment that balances the needs of all employees.

Understanding Support Animals and Legal Considerations

Service Animals under the ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines "service animals" as dogs individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities.  

This definition can extend to miniature horses under certain circumstances. The tasks performed by service animals include guiding visually impaired individuals, pulling a wheelchair, alerting people who are deaf, and calming individuals with PTSD during anxiety attacks, among others.

Emotional Support Animals

While emotional support animals provide comfort to their owners, they do not have the same legal protections as service animals under the ADA. However, their presence can still be beneficial for mental health, reducing stress and increasing productivity.

Legal Responsibilities

Facility managers must understand the difference between service animals and emotional support animals. They should be aware of the reasonable accommodation requirements under the ADA, ensuring that employees with disabilities are provided with the necessary services to perform their job duties.  

It is also essential to stay updated on federal, state, and local laws regarding the presence of animals in the workplace.

Benefits of Allowing Support Animals in the Workplace

Mental Health and Well-being

Allowing support animals in the workplace can significantly improve employees' mental health. Studies have shown that interacting with pets can lower cortisol levels, reduce perceived stress, and increase the release of 'feel-good' neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. This can lead to higher productivity, morale, and job satisfaction.

Social Interaction and Cohesion

The presence of pets can promote social interaction and cohesion among coworkers. Pets provide a neutral topic for casual conversations, strengthening bonds between colleagues and fostering a sense of community.

Reduced Absenteeism

Research has found that pet-owning employees tend to take fewer sick days, as interacting with pets promotes better physical and mental health.

Challenges and Accommodations


Despite the numerous benefits, allowing support animals in the workplace can present challenges, such as allergies and fear of animals among some employees. Facility managers must address these concerns to ensure a harmonious work environment.

Specific Accommodations

Facility managers can provide several accommodations to support employees with support animals:

  • Designate Pet-friendly Areas: Identify specific areas within the workplace where support animals are welcomed.
  • Establish Guidelines: Create guidelines to ensure that support animals do not disrupt the work environment or pose health hazards to other employees.
  • Create a Pet Policy: Outline the responsibilities of support animal owners, such as cleaning up after their animals and ensuring they do not disturb others.
  • Offer Flexible Workspaces: Allow employees with support animals to work in areas where their pets can be accommodated.
  • Provide Well-ventilated Spaces: In case of allergies, ensure well-ventilated spaces and consider designated areas for support animals to minimize contact with allergic individuals.
  • Encourage Open Communication: Foster open communication between employees and their managers to address any concerns regarding support animals.

Research Findings Supporting Pet-friendly Policies

A growing body of academic research supports the implementation of pet-friendly policies in the workplace. Key findings include:

  • Reduced Stress Levels: Interacting with pets has been shown to lower cortisol levels and reduce perceived stress, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction.
  • Increased Happiness and Well-being: Playing with pets triggers the release of 'feel-good' neurotransmitters, boosting mood and morale.
  • Social Interaction Benefits: The presence of pets promotes social interaction and cohesion among coworkers.
  • Reduced Absenteeism: Pet-owning employees tend to take fewer sick days, promoting better physical and mental health.

By implementing pet-friendly policies, facility managers can create a supportive and inclusive work environment that enhances employee well-being and productivity.  Understanding the legal considerations, addressing challenges, and providing specific accommodations are crucial steps in achieving this goal.  

Encouraging open communication and staying informed about the latest research and regulations will ensure a harmonious workplace for all employees. If you're ready to explore how support animals can benefit your workplace, start by assessing your current policies and making necessary adjustments.  

Remember, a happier, healthier workforce is a more productive one. For further assistance, consult with HR and legal experts to ensure your policies are compliant and beneficial for everyone.

If you're a facility manager and would look forward to a more calm, less chaotic day, reach out to us! We can help with all your FM needs!

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