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Employers see benefits to Fido-friendly workspaces

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by Chris Liedle, KATU News

PORTLAND, Ore. — Studies by several top universities recently found that employees were generally more productive, less stressed and happier in workplaces that allowed pets, specifically dogs.

Some metro-area employers have allowed pets for years, but it was not a widespread practice. That is changing.

At Boly-Welch, a consulting firm in downtown Portland, dogs are welcome.

When we visited, at least three dogs greeted us: Talula, a poodle; Penny, a golden retriever mix and Harvey, a chihuahua mix.

Harvey's owner Kara Roach brings him in a backpack-like carrier every day.

"I love bringing him to work," Roach told KATU. "He loves it too! He gets really sad when I try to leave him at home."

But with bringing a dog to work comes strict guidelines.

"We have to agree to get your dog immunized, make sure they are well taken care of, that you're responsible for your pet while you're at work," Roach said. "I'm sure those privileges could be taken away as quickly as they were granted."

Still, no one seems to mind the seemingly clockwork doggy play time at 4 p.m., and employees like Moira Farnsworth say it's a good reminder to take breaks, by joining the fun or at least having a laugh.

"When you work in the people business, it's sometimes nice to have a break, and having an animal that just loves you," Farnsworth said.

Farnsworth, who chooses to leave her dog at home, is popular with the dogs at work, for the treats she has stuffed in her desk's bottom drawer.

"Hi, you want one?" she said to one of the dogs. "They all know, I'm the cookie lady."

Not only do dogs generally make employees happier, employers have recognized a similar effect on their clients, customers and patients, yes patients.

At Thomas Family Dentistry in Beaverton, dogs in the dentist office is nothing new. For eight years, dogs, sometimes up to four of them, regularly accompany staff and patients.

"Can be a little too much, maybe," Dr. Kelly Thomas said laughing. "We don't want to overwhelm people."

Like with other employers, there are strict guidelines. For health and safety reasons, dogs are not allowed during dental surgeries or more critical procedures, but Sammy, Piper, Breeze and Bailey, English cocker spaniels, typically have free reign.

Thomas and his wife Melissa say the dogs act like comfort animals, helping to calm patients, especially children, restless with dental anxiety.

In fact, Thomas says some patients won't schedule an appointment if the dogs won't be there.

"It's actually extremely therapeutic for the patients," Thomas told KATU.

Registered dental hygienist Naren Hassan sees it firsthand.

"I have a lot of patients that come in with dental anxiety," she said. "When they see the dogs, they get very comfortable."

Everyone we talked to agreed that not every dog is fit for the office and not every office is fit for a dog. The same principle applies to other kinds of pets in the workplace.

If employers want to allow pets in the workplace, it's recommended they adopt strict, fair and universal guidelines, and ensure pets meet health and safety requirements set by county, state and federal authorities.

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