How to Make Your Small Business Pet Friendly

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While there are many small businesses that for one reason or another cannot allow pets onto the premises (or simply don’t have premises, such as certain kinds of logistics businesses), there are many that simply have not thought about the potential benefits creating a pet friendly environment can bring. For one thing, if you run a business in an area where there are many dog owners and you don’t allow pets into your store, you are effectively cutting out a large portion of the potential customers who pass by your door every day. Having a pet friendly attitude will allow you to increase your sales to pet owners by default, but can have ancillary benefits including improving your relationship with the community and promoting a positive environment inside your location. Business owners who have employees who have pets can also benefit from a pro pet stance, as allowing pets in the office on certain days, or even on a permanent basis, can allow you to increase worker morale and increase the time that your employees are able to spend in the office.

In order to create a pet friendly environment, there are a few things that small business owners need to do first. Take stock of the pros and cons surrounding the issue before you move forward one way or the other. If allowing pets into your business will increase costs but not necessarily increase your business’s potential audience, then there is no reason to take on the project. If, on the other hand, your demographic or your employee base includes a large number of pet owners then you could stand to gain much from your minimal investment of time and energy.

Think of what can go wrong, then create safeguards.  If there are wires, edible or potentially edible products or other hazards in areas that can be reached by pets, then they should be either removed or covered in such a way that they are no longer presenting a potential threat. Pets should be kept out of areas where there is a lot of foot traffic, machinery or equipment being used, or loud noise as they can get in the way and potentially cause accidents. Consider that a full grown dog is like a curious toddler, except much faster and larger. This should give you an idea of what needs to be relocated and what parts of the business need to remain off limits to animals.

Provide for your furry friends. Putting out a bowl of water and keeping treats on hand for pet visitors to your business is an excellent way to benefit from the relationship building bonuses you can gain from allowing pets. Customers who see that their pets enjoy visiting your business, and can count on the convenience of being able to go into the store while walking their companions will be much more likely to provide you with repeat business. Thoughtful gestures like providing some refreshment for visiting animals goes a long way towards building good associations with your brand.

Always keep cleaning supplies on hand. In the worst case, an  animal will create a mess. It is imperative that if your business chooses to allow pets, it has the means on  hand to quickly clean up if an accident should occur. Health and safety are the major concerns that small business owners should account for if they are considering allowing animals into their businesses.

In general, it is not a good idea to allow animals into restaurants or places where food is being prepared or sold. Whether or not you personally disagree, allowing animals near food is a good way to alienate squeamish customers and may actually be against the law, depending on where you live. A word to the wise; no matter how much you love your pets, it’s not worth fighting a legal battle over whether or not they should be let into your restaurant.

Hopefully, small business owners who chose to allow pets will experience for themselves the happiness that animals can bring to an environment, as well as the sales benefits of tapping into the large market of proud pet owners out there.

Photo Credit to Andrea Arden on Flickr

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