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All Dogs May Go To Heaven, But The Office? That’s Where Things Get A Little Fuzzy

There are 14 rules Sam must abide by when he shows up to work at The Motion Agency in downtown Chicago.

He can only use the freight elevator to get to his 10th-floor office at the historic Reid Murdoch Building.

He isn’t allowed inside the restrooms or kitchen.

He can’t attend meetings in the conference room.

But the most critical rule Sam must follow? He must be attached to a leash at all times when he’s in the building.

Sam is Motion Agency Senior Vice President Wheatley Marshall’s 6-year-old shepherd mix, and he has just recently been allowed into the building as part of the company’s push to bring people back to work.

“It just makes people happy to have their dogs with them,” Marshall said.


The coronavirus pandemic started a pet adoption spree, and now nearly half of all U.S. households own a dog. As company executives look to find ways to bring their human employees back under one roof, dog-friendly policies are increasingly being used as a lure.

That means office owners and managers fighting to reclaim their relevance in the post-vaccine economy are being forced to face the fuzz.

“A dog policy is one of many tools available for owners to create that engagement at their properties," said Jeff Shaw, the CEO of Bridge Commercial Real Estate, which owns more than 14M SF of offices nationally. "If landlords don't recognize that now and start doing something about it proactively, there will be winners and losers, and those who don’t think about tenant engagement will be the losers in 2022.”

But welcoming a different species into the workplace brings with it a new set of headaches to deal with. Some landlords have rules limiting the breeds and number of dogs allowed in a building, while others make pet owners register their dogs' DNA to a database to ensure that the source of any mystery droppings can be apprehended and brought to justice.

And despite some workers' insistence that bringing their furry friends is a prerequisite to office attendance, two companies Bisnow reached out to for this story rescinded their dog-friendly policies after allergy fears or accidents.

When Margine Biswas went back to the office at her Dallas-based architecture firm, Archiphy, after months working remotely, she brought her new dog, a year-old poodle named Mando.

“It was rough, especially since he was meeting everyone for the first time,” Biswas said. “He was very excited, jumping on everyone. Then he peed in the office."

Mando, the pup owned by Archiphy founder Margin Biswas, whose trial at the office wasn't a success.

Even before the pandemic, dogs were becoming a more common sight in the office: The percentage of companies that allowed dogs on their premises grew from 5% to 11% between 2013 and 2019, according to the Society of Human Resources Management. Pet adoptions have only accelerated since then.

As of this year, nearly 70 million U.S. households owned a dog, according to the American Pet Products Association, up from 43 million in 2012. Pet insurance premiums rose from $1.56B in 2019 to nearly $2B in 2020, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

In his 21-year career as an office tenant representative, Colliers Executive Vice President Dougal Jeppe has only negotiated dog-friendly provisions on a lease four times. Half of those deals came this year, he said, including brokering The Motion Agency’s with its landlord, Friedman Properties. Friedman officials didn't return requests for comment.

Jeppe said he's expecting to be asked to negotiate approval for more office dogs, and while the details can vary from landlord to landlord, there tend to be common themes.

Some landlords place a limit on the weight and number of dogs in their building, said Steve Baile, the chief operating and development officer for the Atlanta developer Selig Development Co.

“We learned this kind of from the condo world,” Baile said. “It's just common sense stuff. The toughest part is getting them in and out of the building.”

Building owners may dictate specific entrances and elevators dogs can use, that dog owners have pet insurance, a two- or three-strike rule before permanent bans, make tenants pay for cleanup costs. Some exclude certain breeds, Jeppe said, so owners with pit bulls, German shepherds, cane corsos and Doberman pinschers, for example, wouldn't be allowed to bring their canine companions to the office.

Some office landlords have gone so far as to require that tenants’ dogs register their DNA as part of the requirement to report to the office. If a defecation goes uncleaned and unclaimed, landlords can send a sample to companies like Knoxville, Tennessee-based PooPrints, which has a lab it uses to identify the "pooprit," sales representative Nick Boosalis said.

The company launched catering to apartment buildings, but PooPrints has contracts with close to 100 office buildings nationwide, Boosalis said. Four years ago, it had none.

“It's certainly not our biggest market at the moment, but in time, it may come close,” Boosalis said.

Savills Executive Managing Director Wendy Feldman Block and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel and poodle mix named Hudson.

These rules are put in place ultimately as a capitulation — most owners would still prefer not to have pets in the buildings at all. But canine provisions are of growing importance to companies relying on carrots over sticks in bringing employees back to the office, Savills Executive Managing Director Wendy Feldman Block said.

This is especially true of those employees who became pet parents during the pandemic — herself included.

“As companies are struggling to get their employees to come back … this becomes an issue,” said Block, whose new dog, Hudson, isn't allowed at Savills' Northern Virginia office building. “To me, this goes back to wellness. This is a real thing. People feel better when they're around their pets.”

Despite today's office market dynamic in favor of tenants at the negotiating table, not all landlords will be open to dog-friendly policies. Big corporations and institutional landlords are likely to be more hesitant to adopt pet-friendly policies, Jeppe said.

“Some institutional owners may not be open to the concept,” Jeppe said. "Is Tishman Speyer ... going to say, 'Hey, we have a great dog policy?' Probably not.”

Except Tishman Speyer, one of the world's largest office landlords, said just that.

Tishman Speyer has implemented dog-friendly policies at a number of our buildings, including our Rockefeller Center campus, after implementing a successful pilot within our own headquarters at 45 Rockefeller Plaza,” a company spokesperson told Bisnow in an email.

Amazon, Athenahealth, PetCo, VMWare, Carfax and Salesforce all allow employees to bring their dogs to work, and experts say companies that fight for skilled talent, such as tech firms, are more likely to be open to dogs in the workplace.

Google is such a pet-positive company it puts its dog-friendly office policy in the company’s code of conduct, which reads, “Google’s affection for our canine friends is an integral facet of our corporate culture."

When the tech giant was looking to open a large new office in Atlanta, it mentioned in its requirement that it wanted to allow workers to bring dogs to wherever it went.

So when developer Selig Enterprises was negotiating with Google to take over 100K SF at 1105 West Peachtree in Midtown Atlanta, it approved its second-ever dogs-allowed lease provision in company history. Google has expanded to roughly 500K SF at the tower earlier this year.

“[Google] asked how to make it work, if possible,”  Selig's Baile told Bisnow in an email. “It was not that big of an issue. I don’t recall it being a deal [maker] or breaker in any way whatsoever.”

SquareFoot Senior Managing Director Patrick Braswell and his pup Rocky.

While office owners may be loath to allow dogs into a building officially, they are more comfortable turning a blind eye.

A prominent Atlanta office executive who asked not to be identified said his firm’s property managers have noticed more dogs at one of its office campuses, even though the landlord has a no-dogs-allowed policy.

No one has been shown the doggy door. The executive said just 35% of the 7,500 employees who should be working there on a daily basis are coming in, so they are not in the position to be turning anyone away.

“We are not actively enforcing. We’re not coming in there and saying, ‘You’re in violation of the lease,’” the executive told Bisnow. “We’re not going to do anything actively to discourage people from coming [back to the office].”

SquareFoot Senior Managing Director Patrick Braswell adopted a cockapoo, Rocky, during the pandemic. He was concerned to leave Rocky home after being with him nearly constantly for months when he was working remotely, but his company didn't have pet-friendly provisions written into its lease at Piedmont Center.

Nonetheless, Braswell said he opted to bring Rocky to work and risk the landlord's backlash, rather than leaving the pooch at home alone. 

“I think most clients are taking an ask-for-forgiveness type of approach,” Braswell said. “Just bring the dog and see what happens.”

Not all companies are living in interspecies harmony. Roughly 20% of the global population is allergic to dogs and cats, and people spend upward of $1B on acute asthma care in the U.S. due to allergic reactions to dogs, according to a 2018 Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research paper.

Health issues scuttled one tech company’s attempt at a pet-friendly policy. Singapore-based CocoSign — a software firm that facilitates online signatures and has some 100 employees — developed a pet-friendly policy with the blessing of its landlord and insurance company, CEO Stephen Curry told Bisnow in an email.

After dogs started coming into the office, the company began to receive some employee complaints, Curry said.

Duchess, one of the employee dogs at The Motion Agency in Chicago.

“Two of our employees got an allergic reaction to dander and [were] given sick leave, thus we had to do an immediate survey,” he said.

Even though most of the employees were in favor of bringing dogs to work, the concerns about allergies from a handful of employees made Curry put the kibosh on its pet-friendly policy at its 7,500 SF office.

“From this survey, I’ve found that this trend would be an unproductive liability to the workplace,” he said. "It would be a maintenance burden as well as a medical liability."

But more firms are finding the benefits outweigh the downside. Motion Agency account executive Hannah Marshall — no relation to her co-worker, Wheatley — said the firm's pet-friendly policy has encouraged employees to report to the office more often as well.

“It is not the only contributing factor, but even employees who don’t have dogs are excited to see dogs throughout the office,” she said. "Many of them keep treats in their desks."