I have to start out by saying….I love dogs! I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t have a dog and I understand the beauty and companionship that dog owners feel about their pets. So, I can understand when facility managers bring their pets to work, either for company during the long days working at a facility where it seems like a ghost-town or for security, where tenants or visitors are regularly behaving badly and the manager needs to feel protected.
There is no perfect answer. In a legal world, the value of having pets on the property must be weighed against the risk. Companies address and analyze these cost/benefit issues every day when they run their businesses. For every dog that may be docile every day of the year there is another that suddenly, and without warning, bites a tenant who may approach it. And certainly, for every person that might otherwise love dogs like I do, there are others that remain fearful and may choose to rent somewhere else because the pet is present at the property. At the same time, the best manager that can be hired may only take the job if they can bring their pet to work.
For those properties that elect to allow their employees to bring their pets to work, there are a few protective steps that should be taken. The first is to notify your insurance company that there is a pet on the premises. Your policy may need to be updated (or a rider may need to be added) to address this factual condition and the “added risk” that comes with it. The cost of the additional coverage might be different if the dog is under a certain weight or is a certain breed. But not having coverage while allowing pets on the property leaves a business exposed to the cost of that risk without insurance coverage if something happens.
Secondly, there should be notice to the tenants and visitors that a pet is present on the property. The notice should be posted on the exterior gate and outside the office door. Although there is always the risk that the tenant may elect to rent elsewhere, the notice is important in case the tenant or visitor might be allergic to the pet or even, most simply, if the tenant or visitor is afraid of dogs and would be surprised or upset if they came into the office and were confronted without notice.
Can a facility owner or property manager deny their employee the option to bring their pet to work? In general, yes. There are, of course, exceptions that might apply under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But in such a case, the employee can provide the proper documentation to demonstrate the need for the pet. Otherwise, even if it may not be seen as a popular or pleasant decision, the owner or manager of the property can evaluate the cost/benefit and decide to restrict pets from the facility. At the same time, an owner or manager may choose to allow the animal, but only after the insurance has been updated and the notices posted.
Big thanks to Carol Mixon for asking me about this topic!
Scott Zucker is a partner in the law firm of Weissmann Zucker Euster + Katz P.C. in Atlanta, Georgia. Scott specializes in business litigation with an emphasis on real estate, landlord-tenant and construction law. Scott is a frequent lecturer at national conventions and is the author of Legal Topics in Self Storage: A Sourcebook for Owners and Managers. He is also a partner in the Self Storage Legal Network, a subscription-based legal service for self storage owners and managers. Scott can be reached at 404-364-4626 or at email@example.com.