Here’s an interesting one: A customer walks into your business with a service dog. Is that okay with you?

Why not, right? First of all, dogs are awesome. Besides that, it seems like dogs are everywhere nowadays, and service dogs are growing in number. When traveling, I’ve had a dog as a nearby seatmate on numerous flights, and I often see people walking around town with service companions. It’s also not uncommon to be greeted by a dog when I visit a client. Some companies — like Amazon — openly allow their employees to bring their dogs to work. Dogs seem to be more and more welcome everywhere.

Well, not exactly. One business in Colorado turned away a customer because he had a service dog with him — and didn’t have the paperwork to prove it.

“She [the dog] helps me with my conditions,” the customer, a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, told a local television station. “It’s just an important relationship.” So what was the problem?

The problem was that the business served food, and customers were complaining to management about the dog’s presence — so the owner took action. Unfortunately, state law in Colorado wasn’t exactly on her side. The law states that service dogs are allowed in restaurants (but, even though their manners are likely better than those of many people I’ve seen eating out, they’re still not allowed to actually sit at the table).

The problem was the lack of paperwork. The owner contended that there was no indication that the dog was a service dog. But here the rules were not on her side either. Colorado regulations only require the owner to ask and rely on the customer’s response. “There’s no documentation required; it does not need to be present with the service animal,” a state official said in the television report. It is, however, a crime in Colorado if someone misrepresents an animal as a service animal.

Business owners in the state do have some recourse. If an animal, regardless of its status, acts aggressively or attacks someone, the animal and its owner can be asked to leave. This was not the case here. Bottom line: The customer was within his rights.

I’m a dog owner and don’t mind seeing dogs on planes and at clients’ offices. In fact, I think it’s fun, and it makes me smile. But I get that some people don’t like this — they may have fears, allergies, or just prefer not to be around animals while they travel, eat, work, or shop. In the end, dogs are dogs.

Even Amazon requires its employees to get permission from both managers and their teammates in their immediate work area in order to be allowed to bring their dogs to work. The company also requires vaccinations and has its own set of etiquette rules for both dogs and owners that require the owner…sorry, the dog…to be housebroken, well behaved, social, and healthy.

So, should you allow dogs in your small business? When it comes to your customers, you need to be familiar with your state’s laws, particularly as they apply to service dogs. Most I’ve found are similar to Colorado’s. For your employees, it’s all about the workplace. It’s not fair to make anyone feel uncomfortable at their job, so ask first. Do a test period. Come up with a policy similar to Amazon’s. Always reserve the right, as the business owner, to override your policy if you feel there are safety or happiness concerns.

But, if all goes well, then sure — let ’em in. There’s no better way to bring a little happiness into your office then introduce a friendly dog.

Tell Us: Do You allow animals to enter your store, office or restaurant?

19 Responses to "Should You Allow Dogs in Your Place of Business?"

    • Brian Taylor | April 18, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      Absolutely. I allow and encourage employees to bring their dogs into the office. I have established, common-sense policies about the animal and bringing it to our office.

      1. must be up to date on all shots
      2. must be house-broken
      3. must be social and not aggressive toward people or animals in the office
      4. must not bark or disrupt the business functions
      5. owner is responsible for care, maintenance and clean-up in and around the property
      6. animal must not detract of inhibit your ability to perform you job function

      The employees love it and so do our customers. Many actually stay later at the office because they don’t need to rush home to take care of their pets.

      The animals love it. The get extensive social interaction with other humans and animals in a neutral territory.

    • Renee | April 18, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      I have a small Service dog and because my disability is psychological and not physical, I have heard nasty comments, been denied entry into restaurants and at my condo’s pool deck. It only exacerbates the problem. On the flip side, she spent 4 days with me in the hospital, in my bed, after a recent surgery. People need to understand that yes, some people lie and abuse the law, but most do not. Please understand, just because the person looks or is young and you do not see a disability, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Not all disabilities are visible

      • Elizabeth Larkin | April 19, 2018 at 9:13 am

        Dogs are amazing. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. Do you have documentation you can show business owners? – Elizabeth

    • Infocus Urgent Care | April 18, 2018 at 9:26 pm

      Yes, we do.

    • Ron McKey | April 18, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      Dogs are okay in my furniture showroom. They are always a little anxious, but become bored after 15 minutes of exploration. Never have had a problem in 35 years.

    • Laurence Kelley | April 18, 2018 at 9:54 pm

      Yes, I allow my dogs in my office if they want to be with me.

    • Mona Royder | April 18, 2018 at 10:07 pm

      I take my 3 whippets to my office. They sleep under my desk. Our patients love seeing them in the office. Obviously, we keep them out of patient areas, they stay in the clerical part of the office. But everyone asks about them and brings them treats.

    • Danise Talbot | April 18, 2018 at 11:28 pm

      My dog comes to my shop and welcomes the customers or just sleeps through their visit . Clients looks ❤️ her

    • maurizio bonacini | April 18, 2018 at 11:35 pm

      I don’t allow any pets in a medical office. Only documented service animals.

    • B Tour | April 19, 2018 at 1:41 am

      I love dogs but I also like to abide to rules. If the person’s dog is indeed a Service Dog, then the documentation should be readily available. No further questions asked. What is the problem of presenting such proof? Don’t you need to present your Gov’ issued ID when you travel?

      I have seen people claiming their dog was a Service Dog when in reality it was not, just the behavior of the pet could indicate as such. The problem is that some people take advantage of loopholes in the laws for their own sole profit, without caring about others. I call this egoism and hypocrisy. Real Service Dogs go through thorough training and are great and respected for that, including their owners.

    • Infocus Urgent Care | April 19, 2018 at 7:33 am

      Sgt. Joseph Ryan Pie’ and our medical director bring their dogs to work. Staff and patients love seeing and playing with the dogs.

    • Lisap | April 19, 2018 at 8:29 am

      At one place I worked, a manager brought his dog to work, stating that it was a service animal. The dog however, would growl at anyone that came into the office, or even when they walked in to the building. The paperwork he supplied, was for a dog from 5 years ago, that was about 4 at the time. This dog was only 5 years old, so not the same animal, and the paperwork was more of an emotional support dog, that would allow him to take him on airplanes.

      In addition, one of my employees was terrified of dogs, and with him growling made it a hostile work environment for her. Where do you draw the line, I love my dogs, but I would not force them on someone who is not a dog person, or is scared of them.

      I really feel that all official service dogs should be licensed, and the owner carry the license with them. Just like a driver needs to carry a license with him. It does not need to state while they have a service dog, but that it is official, and this would eliminate a lot of issues in businesses, and stop people from bring their dogs with them everywhere, where people are afraid to offend them by asking if they are a service dog.

    • marsha small | April 19, 2018 at 9:22 am

      We own a small manufacturing company and sometimes bring our well-behaved and friendly 17 lb. terrier into our facility. We only have a handful of employees so it was easy to get a consensus. One of our employees regretted having to leave her dog at home all the time so after she described her 35 lb. mixed breed as quiet and well-behaved we agreed that she could bring her dog in too on certain days. Having dogs around is a slight distraction but we think that it is worthwhile. It helps create a bond between everyone there and does put a smile on our faces. Not everyone at our facility are dog lovers like the dog owners so the key is that the dog must be mannerly. I don’t want dogs there every day or during our busy season because they sometimes get in the way. It’s a nice break, however, to bring the dogs in occasionally.

    • Becki Benson | April 19, 2018 at 10:48 am

      I own a mental health billing company. I’ve no issues with dogs, I love all animals! I have cats. I do wonder what the legal and insurance ramifications are, especially for my therapist clients. Hartford, can you address this?

    • Chrisanne Hasecuster , WoodShapes Unlimited, Inc | April 19, 2018 at 4:03 pm

      We have a wonderful dog Stella. She is a MINI GOLDEN DOODLE and is wonderful. Very friendly, doesn’t jump on people, very seldom barks and is loved by all that come in. She has been through training and is an excellent dog. She comes in the morning and goes home with the owner in the evening
      And there have been times people come in to see how Stella is doing and have a little doggie love!

    • Joanne | April 19, 2018 at 4:04 pm

      I have no problem with dogs, but understand many people do. I don’t expect everyone to like my dog. I think service dogs should be licensed and wear a tag on their collar that needs to be periodically updated, just like they wear a tag to show their rabies shots are up to date. Then there’s not problem – you have the tag with you if anyone asks.

    • RaillyMc | April 20, 2018 at 11:43 am

      Wow, even after all these years, people still do not understand their rights and responsibilities. It makes zero difference what state we are discussing because service dogs are regulated under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as Amended 2009 (ADAA) (more commonly known as ADA), which is enforced by the Dep’t. of Justice (DOJ). Federal law supersedes state law each and EVERY time. The ADA varies between Title II and III, but for purposes of this, suffice it to say that the ADA only applies to: Public Transportation; buses, trains, taxis, etc., Public and Common Areas (e.g. businesses), and governmental buildings (City, County, State and Federal). The ADA does not cover the service animal provisions for aircraft/flights — they have their own laws, or housing, which is covered under the Fair Housing Act.

      ADA limits the definition of “Service Animal” as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The revised regulations specify that “the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purpose of this definition. Emotional support animals are expressly precluded from qualifying as service animals under the ADAA. There is a separate provision regarding trained miniature horses.

      As an ADA covered facility, a business for example, may legally ask two questions when encountering a person with a dog that enters their business: 1. Is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? 2. What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform?

      These questions may only be asked if it is not readily apparent that the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability: e.g., seeing-eye dog. An entity may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service dog. The dog is not required to wear a vest, or other insignia.

      The animal may be denied access to (or evicted from) the ADA-covered facility if:
      1. The handler is not disabled;
      2. The dog performs no tasks other than emotional support;
      3. The animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it;
      4. The animal is not housebroken; or,
      5. The animal poses a direct threat (based on individualized assessment of the specific animal’s conduct) to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by a reasonable modification to other policies, practices and procedures.

      Hope this helps.

    • Ashley L, Club Fido & Friends | April 21, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      As the owner of a dog daycare, I absolutely allow dogs into my place of business! However, I do have to agree with many of the posts talking about required documentation. As a dog lover, and someone who works directly with a large number of dog lovers, I hear way too many people talking about how they use the loose nature of the “system” to their advantage. I know the laws, I understand why they are in place (to protect those who truly need these animals) and I appreciate that. However, I do feel like it leaves too much room for people to take advantage. As we move into a new generation, it seems like people are more and more willing to do just that, take advantage. I just wish there were some way to deter these people trying to take advantage. There really is no clear answer, I can see issues with all possible “requirements.”
      Paperwork is just that, paper.. and if you truly carry papers on your person at all times (even swimming?) and don’t think that they will get lost or ruined, you are mistaken. Especially consider if you have a disability.
      Anything attached to the dog has the ability to become detached (except maybe a tattoo-like some service dogs now have) Tags get snagged on things and fall off, and if you have a disability, you may not be able to attach a tag to your dog’s collar (I have a hard time with those split ring things!). Not only that, but collars break and fall off, they wear and get old, and in some cases, they present safety hazards to the dogs.
      Any type of clothing or vest has the same potential to wear out, break, or fall off, but more importantly, that sort of thing may cause the dog discomfort and may interrupt their ability to complete their duties as a service animal.
      I don’t know the “right” answer, but I do wish there was something that could deter from all of the “fraud” that I see happening these days.

    • Elle Kay | April 24, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Yes! I bring my dog into our non-profit offices and everyone loves him; at this point about half our staff keep treats in their offices for him.
      But, before I brought him the first time I checked with all the staff to make sure they were ok with it. I have one co-worker who is afraid of dogs but she was ok with him coming if he was well-behaved and not in her space. We maintained that separation until she was comfortable with him & I’m happy to say that, after over a year, she loves him too. (It helps that he’s a medium sized, senior dog who mostly sleeps all day)
      In addition, we have a conference room that is often used -by our staff and by other organizations- to host trainings, meetings, etc and if the conference room is booked (meaning that a couple dozen ‘strangers’ will be in the building) then he doesn’t come in on that day.

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