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Making work a pet project

And now for something completely different.

It is not only Labour cabinet members who have recently been making the news for all the wrong reasons, even four-legged friends of other people in very high places have been the subject of [some would say unfair] criticism.

I refer to Wellington mayor Tory Whanau and her beleaguered pooch, Teddy, who was caught brazenly and illegally coming into the office with his owner. Although, I assume his owner led him in.

Whanau had been bringing two-year-old Teddy into Wellington City Council’s offices, but the council’s lease agreement does not allow animals on the premises. It is understood the council had not received any complaints from the landlord when Teddy’s visits hit the news.

However, another WCC councillor reportedly said at the time that other councillors who owned dogs felt there shouldn’t be separate rules for everyone else.

I couldn’t agree more. There should indeed be one doggone rule for us all. We should not be doggist, or cattist, or speciesist.

If the Mayor’s dog can go with her to work, all our dogs [and other animals that fit comfortably in the office] should be able to come with us to work. Should they not?

Whanau pointed out at the time that Teddy had been spending long days alone at home, given the hours she worked. “I just can’t leave Teddy at home for between 12 and 14 hours a day,” she said.

Whanau is right; it’s inhumane to leave a dog alone day after day after day. More independently-minded cats seem to cope much better, but dogs do not generally manage well on their own for long periods. Negative behaviours can emerge. Destructive habits, such as destroying cushions, can develop. More anti-social habits such as endless howling, or even breaking free and running around the neighbourhood are not uncommon in home-alone dogs.

On the other hand, studies have shown that dogs in the workplace have many positives.

The American Kennel Club reports that people who brought their dogs to work had lower stress levels, and there were more positive interactions in those workplaces when a dog was part of the furniture. It was also good for employers, with lower employee turnover, as dog-owning staff were less likely to leave, having found an animal-friendly job. Thus, it helped employers retain top talent, raise performance, and improve office morale.

For the dog owner, there were benefits in reduced pet care costs – and of course, the peace of mind that comes with knowing little [or big] Fido wasn’t at home snacking on the couch or laying waste to the neighbour’s garden.

Even here at the Times-Age, we have, from time to time, entertained the staff’s furry friends on an ad-hoc basis. No one could deny the appeal of a small fluffy dog, cute kitten, or even a slightly crazed rescued stray cat in the work environment. While I couldn’t promise productivity went up on those days, I’m just as sure it didn’t go down.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge the bond many have with their furry pets and allow well-behaved versions into offices.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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