As the dust settles on the UK General Election, the light-hearted side of polling day may well have passed you by. #DogsatPollingStations was not so much a movement as a Twitter storm. It all started with the BBC's Evan Davis asking on the morning of #GE2015 if anyone knew whether his dog Mr Whippy could accompany him when he cast his vote. Thus followed a feverish barrage of questions and answers on the topic. Pooches are allowed just so long as they do not disrupt the 'democratic process'; but there would possibly be more than a slightly raised eyebrow at other pets. Lots of photos of dogs at polling stations ensued until Councils up and down the country issued bans on selfies, or should that be 'doggies' being snapped? Sophie, my Cavalier, excitedly accompanied me to cast my vote. The polling officials even asked in jest whether she had a ballot card, adding that most dogs would probably make better choices...I couldn't disagree.
This country would be a much better place if the open door policy to dogs was extended to other venues. People would smile more if dogs were to given a break and allowed into more shops and even cafés. What's not to like when you visit the continent and see an elegant lady at lunch with her cute pet pooch by her side? Let's face it, lots of dogs that are well behaved and looked after have better table manners than a lot of people. Also, not many dogs would relieve themselves on the floor of a shop because they know not to through good training. My boyfriend and I visited a lovely café in a North Yorkshire coastal town called Staithes at the weekend. It was resolutely dog friendly. Sophie was allowed both in the vintage shop and also in the adjoining café where she was offered a bowl of water and biscuits. What service! The shop is Dotty about Vintage, btw.
The more rural areas of our country do tend to be more dog friendly as proprietors of shops and eateries in the Dales or Lakes for instance are sensibly aware that people like to take their dogs with them when they go walking somewhere scenic. It makes good economic sense to have an open door policy. It's a bit like cutting your nose off to spite your face if you don't. The MD of lifestyle website PetsPyjamas also this week made the point that British hotels could rake in billions of pounds in revenue if more places had a 'dogs allowed' policy. Gracia Amico, citing figures from Euromonitor International's World Travel Market global trends report, said that British hotels could "increase revenues by 30% per year" if the ban on owners bringing pets was dropped. Amico aptly calls it the 'hound pound.'
I've always wanted to test the veracity of the law still in place that would grant 'King Charles Spaniels access to all public places', which was put on the statute books by King Charles II. It's still there.
That said, Sophie, in part due to her eminently portable size and good nature, is already allowed into lots of places. She comes to work with me, and has done for some time. I'm lucky I know but workplaces are starting to catch on to the fact that having a pet at work can be great for everyone; with the obvious exceptions of people with allergies and phobias. A recent study of 3,000 office workers by digital marketing agency the Bio Agency revealed that 16% have an office pet with the top five being fish, dogs, cats, tortoises and birds. As many as 55% of those questioned admitted they would feel more motivated if they had a pet in the office.
Pets, and it is generally dogs, at work can help people relax and lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as having a positive effect on blood pressure. They can also improve morale and even contribute to team working.
Here are five ways having a workplace pet can be good news:
Increased trust and collaboration: Aside from being man's best friend, it turns out that dogs can be mediators, bridge builders, and productivity coaches, too! Employees are more trusting and collaborative with one another when a dog is present during group meetings, according to a study by Central Michigan University.
Improved Attendance: It's not scientifically proven, but many employees themselves believe that allowing pets in the workplace helps reduce absenteeism.
Enhanced wellbeing: The benefits of a "walking meeting," where people conduct their regular or impromptu meetings while taking a stroll, have been touted since the days of Aristotle. Particularly with dogs in the workplace who will need to be walked throughout the day, walking meetings can help creativity, collaboration, teamwork and also boost employee morale.
Reduced stress: According to a Virginia Commonwealth University study, pets at work help lower cortisol levels and raise productivity, something which all workplaces can benefit from. Research has shown that stress can contribute to employee absenteeism and burnout. It can also result in a significant loss of productivity.
Lots of creative agencies especially are realizing the benefits of pets at work following on the heels of Silicon Valley companies such as Google and Amazon, which are both very pooch friendly. Let's face it there are lots of places that could benefit from four legs and a wet nose.
Marie Carter is the Editor and Publisher of Pets Magazine, a unique leading lifestyle magazine for pet owners, with a monthly readership of 24,000. She also runs specialist PR, Content-generation & Marketing & Digital Publishing Services for the Pet Industry - more details at Pets Magazine's website.