Given their numbers, their presence outside the home, and their potential for fierceness, dogs are the leading source of bodily injury claims for homeowners insurers, who have responded at times by seeking to exclude or restrict coverage for injuries caused by dogs in general or certain breeds of dogs.
Organizations of dog owners have resisted these efforts, arguing that, in their view, it is the dog owner, not the dog, that is the principal factor for any danger posed by a dog. On that score, dog-rearing practices have improved enormously in recent years.
Dog-owning practices that were common in the past, such as tethering a dog outdoors or confining it in a cage for long periods, are now widely condemned and prohibited in some communities. At the same time, responsible and humane dog- rearing is vigorously promoted by local authorities, humane societies, and animal shelters.
Today, many dogs spend time in “doggy daycare” facilities and frolic in community “dog parks,”where they become accustomed to interacting without hostility to other dogs and different people. In the home, it has become increasingly common to allow dogs into the ebb and flow of family life; years ago, animals were often kept separate from family space.
As a result of this revolution in dog-rearing, it is common to see well-behaved dogs in commercial establishments who are no more disruptive than adult humans, and less disruptive than some children.
So, is it time to open your doors, literally and figuratively, to pets? Maybe not, but it is time to come up with a pet policy and be prepared to justify it as a matter of business.
There are drawbacks as well as benefits to a pet-friendly policy. There are still risks in allowing animals on premises (although those risks may be less than formerly believed), and not everyone is “on board”with the new outlook toward pets in public.
Older customers may look askance at the presence of animals, and may fear injury from the actions of even friendly dogs. Children may be delighted to encounter dogs (if they’re not frightened), but can naively approach or startle them, prompting a dog to strike out.
Given these persistent realities, if you’re managing a property or running a business, you might think a strict “no pets allowed” policy would be the simplest and smartest approach. It’s not so simple, however, and may not be very smart.
As indicated above, pet owners are a highly motivated consumer constituency that is organized to patronize their friends and boycott their foes. If you say “no” to one of them, word will get out.