There’s nothing like a pet to liven up even the most dreary workplace, and for some owners, bringing their pet to work eliminates the need for expensive pet-sitters or dog walkers. But for others, it’s more about getting the support they need on a day-to-day basis.
Assistance animals at work
While pet owners have to rely on their bosses’ permission to bring their pets to work with them, the same isn’t true for everyone. People with service animals (like guide dogs, seizure response dogs, and hearing dogs) are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which allows them to bring their trained service dogs into public places, including their place of work.
What’s more, their employers must provide reasonable accommodation to support them in this.
Emotional support animals vs service animals: What’s the difference?
Under the ADA, emotional support animals (ESAs) and service animals are classed differently. While service animals receive specialist training to perform specific tasks for their handler, emotional support animals don’t need any specific training. They help their owners by being a calm, loving source of support and affection.
ESAs are prescribed by a licensed mental health professional, who will write an ESA letter stating that the person in question has been diagnosed with a mental health disorder or emotional disability and that the animal is necessary for their ongoing treatment.
The ADA does not cover people with ESAs in bringing their animals to work. Therefore, people hoping to bring their emotional support animals to work with them will need to either square it with their employer on a case-by-case basis, or find a pet-friendly workplace.
Do you travel for work? Good news, your ESA can come too!
While emotional support animals may not be covered by the ADA, meaning that there is no obligation for them to be allowed in the workplace, we do have some good news for ESA owners who have to fly regularly with work. With a valid ESA letter, you can bring your emotional support animal with you on any commercial flight, free of charge. This is thanks to a piece of legislation called the Air Carrier Access Act.
Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
According to the ACAA, individuals with a diagnosed mental health condition or disability and a valid ESA letter can travel with that animal in the cabin of commercial flights, free of charge, and without putting the animal in a carrier or cage.
As well as a valid ESA letter, passengers are also responsible for ensuring that their ESA is clean, properly house-broken, and able to behave correctly in public.
Certain airlines have extra requirements regarding emotional support animals. Some require passengers to submit their ESA letter in advance, in addition to veterinary certificates outlining the animal’s overall health and vaccination records. Some airlines restrict the definition of ESA to only include cats and dogs, so if you’re traveling with an ESA of a different species, be sure to check whether it will be permitted before you finalize your booking.
As long as all these requirements are met, under the ACAA, airlines are prohibited both from asking questions about the passenger’s disability and from restricting emotional support animals and their owners from boarding. For business travelers who live with conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, the ACAA can be a real life-changer.
The must-have training your pet needs before coming to work with you
Whether you’re bringing a service animal, an emotional support animal, or a pet to work with you, the most important thing to remember is that the animal needs to able to behave properly in public. While service animals will have received rigorous training before being matched with their handlers, not all pets have to be quite as talented to be deemed ready to be out in public.
However, there are still a few training milestones that your pet — or ESA — should hit before you bring them to work with you.
Any pet should be thoroughly socialized with people and other pets, ideally from a young age. This helps to discourage nervousness, aggression, and uncontrollable excitement, which might be cute in a little puppy, but is a harder to manage in a 50lb adult dog!
2. Potty Training
Unless you want to make yourself unpopular with your colleagues very quickly, and most likely make your workplace reconsider their pet-friendly policy, potty training is an absolute must. Not only should you teach your dog to only go outside, never inside, but you also need to teach your dog to ask to go—before it’s an emergency.
Teaching your pet a command like “mess,” “potty” or “bathroom” will help them learn to go on command, cutting down the time you’ll need to spend on bathroom breaks.
Recall is very important in lots of different situations, but especially in the office. If a client, customer, or colleague walks in, you need to be able to stop your pet from jumping all over them. Remember, not everyone likes dogs!
If your dog doesn’t respond to verbal commands — either “come” or their name — try getting a dog whistle.
4. Sit, Lie Down, Stay and Settle
These commands are classics for a reason: they’re useful and easy to teach. Have a designated spot for your pet in the office, whether it’s a bed, a basket, a blanket, or a carrier. Teach your pet a command like “on your bed” or “settle” to let them know when it’s time to settle down so you can get back to work.
If your pet can reliably do all of these things, and provided you work in a pet-friendly workplace, chances are it’s ready to come with you. If you want to take obedience training to the next level, consider enrolling in an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen program, which goes more in-depth and will certify your dog as a well-behaved citizen!