Does Bringing Dogs to Work Increase the Risk of Dog Injuries?

By Aitken Aitken Cohn

One of the most divisive workplace issues is whether employees should bring their dogs to the office. According to the Washington Post, more than 23 million households nationwide adopted a “pandemic pet” during COVID-19 to feel less isolated. With COVID cases winding down, a recent survey found that pet owners were worried about having to leave their pets behind when it was time to return to the office. In response, many companies introduced pet-friendly office policies after the pandemic. While having dogs in the office can be associated with many benefits, such as reduced stress, it can also come with health and safety concerns, and it can also open the door to legal issues in the workplace.

Over the last few years, companies have started exploring allowing their employees to bring their pets to work and introduced the “office pet.” Among the big corporations allowing pets in the workplace are Google and Amazon, which received mostly positive feedback from employees. According to the American Kennel Club, some benefits of having dogs in the workplace are relieving stress, increasing performance, and decreasing employee turnover. Companies claim pets can boost employee morale and can encourage bonding between coworkers. Following the lockdown, many animals suffered from separation anxiety, and being able to bring them to work has been beneficial for both pets and owners.

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine which examined the benefits and challenges of having dogs in the workplace, while dogs may provide many benefits to employees, they may also pose several hazards and concerns. Some of these risks are related to health concerns, including allergies and animal-borne diseases. Swelling and itching of the eyes and nose, breathing issues, and a rash on the face, neck, or chest are all frequent signs of allergic responses to dogs. In addition to the health concerns, not everyone may be fond of working around animals and may be scared and stressed at work. Other hazards and risks are related to safety concerns, like a slip, trips, fall hazards, and dog bites.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with about two percent of those attacks occurring in the workplace, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites. While the pet owner can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog to the average person, employers who allow pets in the workplace may also face liability for dog bites and attacks on an employee.

California law provides that the dog owner is liable for the damages suffered by anyone bitten while in a public place or lawfully in a private area, including the dog owner’s property. The fact that a dog does not have prior attacks or that the owner has no awareness of a dog’s viciousness is not determinative in California law. An owner is held to a strict liability standard of care to protect victims of dog bites and/or dog attacks. Dog bite/attack victims would be able to recover the following compensatory damages:

  • Coverage of all medical bills related to the dog bite
  • Recovery of lost wages and benefits if a victim cannot work
  • Lost earning capacity if the injury prevents the victim from returning to the same type of employment
  • Scarring and disfigurement damages
  • Compensation for physical or vocational therapy
  • Coverage of psychological counseling
  • Pain and Suffering Damages
  • Loss of personal enjoyment damages
  • Possible punitive damages and instances of gross negligence or intentional actions

Suppose a dog bites or attacks you in the workplace. In that case, California provides a two-year window from the date the injury occurs to file a lawsuit against an alleged negligent party to recover compensation for their losses. However, in cases where a person is injured but not bitten, the strict liability statute will not apply. To recover compensation for non-bite injuries caused by a dog, the victim will typically need to show that the dog owner was negligent.

Companies who allow pets in the workplace should be aware of the implications and should draft a comprehensive pet policy that explains that every employee who brings a dog to work is liable for accidents and injuries caused by their dog.

The attorneys at Aitken Aitken Cohn have successfully represented numerous victims of dog bites and dog attacks in Orange County, Riverside County, and nationwide. Our law firm has the compassion, resources, and experience to consult the unfortunate victims of dog bites. If you have been a victim of a dog bite or attack at your workplace, contact the firm today for a free consultation from a nationally recognized personal injury lawyer.