Pets in the Workplace

A dogs life is a good one when employers encourage canine companionship

By Ann Craig-Cinnamon

If you are a pet owner, and particularly a dog owner, you may be noticing more and more businesses are rolling out the welcome mat for your furry companion.  There are increasing numbers of pet-related businesses that are opening shop.  In addition, more businesses are becoming pet friendly, which can be anything from welcoming dogs inside their establishments to offering treats.  When I visit the drive through at the bank with my dog, Reggie, he thinks we’re there for the free dog bone.  In his eyes, the pneumatic bank tube is the coolest magic treat provider on the planet.  Oh, and that free pup ice cream cone from Handels is pretty sweet too.

The increase in attention on our pets is understandable when you consider 68% of all US households now have a pet.  That translates to 85 million families according to the 2017-18 National Pet Owners Survey.  Those kind of numbers mean one thing:  opportunity.

Pet Friendly

It’s estimated that by 2020 spending on pets will reach $100 billion per year.  It is currently growing at a 50% faster rate than the retail industry overall.  The pet business is considered to be recession proof too with spending on pets from 2007-09 showing an increase despite the recession.  For the statistics lovers, here’s an interesting one:  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average people spent more than $500 per year on their pets which is more than they spent on alcohol, landline phone lines or men’s and boys’ clothing.

Using national figures, Humane Society for Hamilton County Executive Director Rebecca Stevens estimates there are close to 150,000 pets in Hamilton County.   She has another astounding figure that is not an estimate.   “In 2017, we took in 3,106 animals with a placement rate, even with all of the seriously injured, ill, seniors and special needs animals we rescued, of 98% compared to the national average of less than 40%,” she says. 

She credits the high placement rate on volunteers and the interest in pets in Hamilton County. “It is through the support of our community that we have been able to sustain the explosive growth of Hamilton County's human and subsequent pet population needs in a building we out-grew 10 years ago.  Our volunteers are fiercely loyal, and with sometimes over 200 animals in foster homes at a time, we have depended on this support to become Indiana's only open-admission, truly no-kill shelter,” says Stevens. 

She thinks Hamilton County is very pet friendly but has room for improvement.  “I believe there is an untapped opportunity for Hamilton County businesses to consider allowing pets to visit their establishments.  We do a lot of fundraising and adoption events in the community, so finding, especially restaurants that are open to the idea of including animals (even in restricted areas) is sometimes challenging,” she says.  Four Day Ray in Fishers will be hosting the Humane Society’s 2nd Annual Paws for a Cause Tito's 5K on Saturday, July 28th but she’d like to see more businesses open up to pets.  “With all the new development in downtown Fishers, and the beautiful Carmel Arts & Design District, it would be wonderful for pet owners to have more shops and restaurants, all within walking distance, to visit with pets in tow.  I think area businesses would be shocked by the numbers of four-legged visitors and new customers that would drive through their doors,” says Stevens.

The state laws and local ordinances that relate to having pets in restaurants is not black and white.  The Hamilton County Health Dept. says dogs (except for service animals) are not allowed in operational areas of a public restaurant.  But determining what is "operational" is done on a case by case basis.

 

Dine with Your Dog

Donatello’s Italian Restaurant on Main St. in Carmel is one restaurant that has been inviting four-legged patrons for many years.  Manager Adam Aasen says during warm weather months Thursdays are “dine with your dog” night, but pets are welcome every night.  “One thing we wanted to do with the outdoor dining area was to allow people to bring their dogs and this is something that I know a lot of businesses don’t allow.  Part of the reason is they are worried about taking up space or one dog being rowdy with another dog.  But we feel that dogs are a part of your family and it was important to create that,” he says. 

Other restaurants in Hamilton County welcome dogs and you can find the ones that do at www.bringfido.com/restaurant.

The Humane Society, which is currently going through a capital campaign to raise millions of dollars for a planned move to Fishers, holds numerous events throughout the year for pets and their families.  One of the biggest ones is the Woofstock Festival held in conjunction with the City of Fishers in October and attracts as many as 5000 people. 

Fishers Parks and Recreation Director Tony Elliot says Fishers considers it a priority to provide pet friendly events and venues.  “Most if not all of our events are pet friendly.  So I think that’s one thing that makes Fishers and Fishers Parks unique.  Our Tuesday night Summer Concert Series is pet friendly.  Our Friday night Amp After Dark Concert Series is pet friendly.  Even our Farmers Market on Saturday morning at the Nickel Plate Amphitheater is pet friendly,” he says adding that the city gets a lot of feedback from residents who consider their pets family members and want to bring them to events. 

A few years ago, the City of Carmel opened the Central Bark Park and today, with 400 members, it is so popular there is a waitlist to join.  Carmel Clay Parks Marketing Director Lindsay Labas says being pet friendly is important for the City of Carmel.  “Pets can contribute to one’s quality of life, which is a large focus within Carmel. Beyond being a cuddle buddy, pets create the feeling of being needed and have been linked to increased happiness,” she says.

There is certainly no shortage of pet-related businesses in Hamilton County from big box retail stores to Veterinarian Clinics.  But according to an article in USA Today entitled “There’s No Business Like Pet Business”, the pet industry still has plenty of opportunities for small businesses. 

Mo Boulanger, the owner of A Dog Bakery in downtown Carmel, says response to her business, which bakes and sells healthy treats for pets, is good and customers are loyal to small local businesses like hers.  She says her customers are very concerned about their pets.  “They are very conscious of their pets and very involved and very specific about the foods they want and what they feed their dogs.  It’s a very healthy, very active community for dogs,” she says. 

Filling the Void

So why are people so interested in their pets?  Kevin DeTrude, the owner of Beverly’s Pet Resort, a full service dog boarding facility, doggie daycare, dog training and private bark park in Fishers has a theory.  “Our clients very much view their dogs as children and treat them as such,” he says adding that in his 23 years in the pet industry he has seen a huge shift in how people interact with their pets.  “I’m convinced having been in the industry for so many years and seeing the industry just explode that these pets are basically filling a void that has been left because the world has shrunk due to the telephone, the computer and the cellphone and hand held devices.  Baby boomers are becoming empty nesters and dogs are filling the void left by the children,” DeTrude surmises.

There is also a growing trend of businesses allowing employees to bring their pets to work.  In fact several businesses on the Square in Noblesville have pets that come to work daily.  

Jack Martin of Martin and Martin Insurance says two dogs come every day and a third on Fridays.  “I think everybody’s happier.  They feel more at home and comfortable.  Clients that walk in seem to like it.  Being downtown there’s a lot of pet owners walking their dogs during the day and they’ll actually even stop in with their dogs and get a dog treat and say hi.  I think it’s been a good thing.”

Humane Society for Hamilton Co. New Building Campaign

Location:  Former Creekside Church building at 106th and Hague Rd., Fishers
Fundraising goal:  $5 million
Building design:  Curran Architecture and Meyer Najem
Projected completion and move-in to new facility:  2021
Donation and sponsorship info:  www.hamiltonhumane.com