Pets Score Company Perks As The ‘New Dependents’
Benefits for household animals are on the rise during surge in pandemic puppy adoptions. Pets Score Company Perks As The ‘New Dependents’
After earning a promotion in May, 27-year-old Maribeliz Ortiz felt ready for the next step in life, and young Niko was definitely her type: brown-eyed and handsome, with a long torso and short legs.
She brought Niko home to Austin, Texas, in June, where they have already made friends with neighborhood Dachshunds.
“We get together for puppy dates,” Ms. Ortiz said.
It also helped that her employer, insurance comparison website the Zebra, recently began offering an annual pet-adoption stipend of up to $300 to encourage dog and cat ownership. CEO Keith Melnick instituted the stipend as part of expanded family-leave benefits for new parents.
At least six of the company’s 250 employees have taken advantage of the perk to adopt a dog in recent months, according to the company.
The policy took effect in January, pre-Covid times, but Mr. Melnick says the pet benefit is “even more important now because our employees are stuck at home.” His yellow lab, Zuma, used to accompany him to the office—back when people went into the office.
In the past few years, more companies have been adopting pet-friendly workplace policies to attract younger workers. Millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the country’s largest pet-owning demographic, making up 35% of all pet owners in the U.S. in 2017, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Companies such as Amazon, Uber, Salesforce and Airbnb regularly rank among the most pet-friendly workplaces, welcoming hundreds of dogs in their offices daily and offering services like dog-walking, play areas and pawternity leave for new pet owners.
But how does a company display its pet-friendly bona fides when most employees are working from home? Pet perks that go beyond the workplace are becoming more important, especially given the recent surge in pandemic-puppy adoptions.
“For those of us who can work from home, it was Covid that forced us to do so, but it’s our pets that made us like it,” says Steve Feldman, executive director of the Human Animal Bond Research Institute. His 10-year-old rescue dog, Scout, spends most of the day under his office chair, he says.
“Companies are starting to realize that it’s one thing to say you can bring your pet to work every Friday, but it’s another to think of your employees’ pets as members of the family,” he says.
In May, Samantha Burdick, 27, began working at Zogics, a cleaning-supply company in Lenox, Mass. She chose the company in part, she says, because “it’s well known for its canine culture.”
She had just adopted a German shepherd puppy, Sadie, and Zogics offers new pet owners an extra week of paid leave, a $200 pet store gift card, discounted pet insurance and a lifetime supply of pet shampoo. The company added pet-cleaning products to its line in 2018.
Cloud-based design platform Ceros used to host about 12 dogs a day in its New York offices, and would set up photo shoots for its “Dogs of Ceros” annual calendar. Since shifting to working from home in March, the company has been looking for new ways to maintain its pet-friendly ethos.
“We started by doing virtual dog Zoom meetings,” says Zarina Stanik, the company’s director of community. “Then we started a Slack channel called Animals Working From Home, where people can post pictures of their pets throughout the day.”
About 10 more employees have gotten pets so far this year, and the Slack channel has become a support network and chat room for new pet owners, Ms. Stanik says.
Increasingly companies are looking to extend traditional benefits, like medical insurance, to employees’ furry family members. WhiskerDocs, a pet telehealth provider based in Chicago, has added 20 employees over the past three months—a staff increase of 40%—to handle the surge in demand.
The company has been around since 2013, “but suddenly this year we’ve had every major employee-benefits broker and consultant in the country contact us to put together a program for them,” says CEO Deb Leon.
She said she recently worked with a major insurer to add whiskerDocs to its offerings. “The company wanted its members to know that they viewed a pet as another dependent, and that’s never happened before,” Ms. Leon said. “Most people don’t have pet insurance, so everything is out of pocket. So this is a big deal.”
A large financial-services company contacted her last week about setting up pet-care to match its child-care offerings, from telehealth appointments to pet-sitting.
“What’s interesting is that some companies are finding that 70% of their employees have pets and only 44% have children, so the benefits balance is way off,” she says. “Pets are the new dependents that employers are recognizing.”
Most of the benefits are skewed toward dogs and cats, but some employers may be more flexible. “Nobody’s come to me yet to adopt a rabbit, but I’d probably approve it,” says the Zebra’s Mr. Melnick.
Chickens would be fair game, he adds, “considering that I have five in my backyard right now.” And even guinea pigs. “I’m personally not a fan of rodents,” he says, “but I wouldn’t hold that against anyone.”
Best Pet Insurance Companies
An emergency trip to the vet may cost thousands. Pet insurance can take away the sting.
If you consider your pet to be an important part of your family, you want to make sure they have the best care possible. But regular visits to the veterinarian can cost hundreds of dollars—and emergencies easily run into the thousands.
If you’re worried about the cost, pet insurance can offer peace of mind by providing coverage for injuries or illnesses that may come up. Pet insurance is a relatively new industry, so it can be difficult to know which companies are best and how much you should expect to pay.
* Best Overall
* Best For Exotic Pets
* Best For $0 Deductibles
* Best For Quick Reimbursement
* Best For Coverage On A Budget
* Best For Holistic Treatments
* Other Companies We Considered
* Pet Insurance 101
* How We Picked
To help you find the best coverage for your pet, we identified the six best pet insurance companies based on their coverage options and cost.
Why we picked it: Pets Best offers robust coverage for dogs and cats. While some companies have upper age limits, Pets Best doesn’t, so you can get coverage even if you have a senior pet.
Pets Best’s plans also cover services and expenses that other companies often exclude, including prescription medications, physical rehabilitation therapy and acupuncture.
Typically, pet insurance companies work via reimbursement; you submit a claim, the insurance company reviews it and, if approved, sends you a check for the reimbursable amount.
Emergency vet bills can cost thousands, so waiting a few weeks for reimbursement isn’t ideal. Pets Best has a direct pay option you can use so the insurance company pays the vet directly, eliminating the need for you to pay for the entire cost upfront.
Pets Best has optional coverage options you can use to customize your policy, including routine care coverage. And you can adjust the deductible and reimbursement percentage to suit your budget.
Based on the quotes we requested for different ages and breeds, Pets Best’s premiums were in line with the industry averages, and it offers military and multi-pet discounts that can reduce your premiums even more.
Caveats: With pet insurance, there are often annual or lifetime caps on how much the insurance company will pay out on claims.
Pets Best has relatively limited annual reimbursement options. It allows you to pick either $5,000 or unlimited reimbursement. Some pet owners may find $5,000 isn’t enough, while still not wanting to pay the full cost of unlimited coverage.
And while Pets Best does have a direct pay option, you have to sign and submit the direct pay form in advance; if a sudden emergency pops up or you’re visiting a vet you haven’t used before, you’ll have to use the reimbursement method for your claim.
Pets Best has several payment options, so you can pay your premiums monthly, quarterly or semiannually. However, opting for the monthly payment options will incur an additional $2 processing fee.
Best For Exotic Pets
Why we picked it: There are nearly 10 million birds and 6 million reptiles kept as pets in the U.S., but pet insurance typically only covers dogs and cats.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC, there is only one major insurer that covers exotic pets like reptiles and birds: Nationwide.
Nationwide’s coverage for avian and exotic pets can be used to pay for hospitalizations, medical exams, surgeries and other treatments for illnesses or injuries resulting from accidents.
It reimburses up to 90% of eligible veterinary expenses after the annual deductible has been met, and it also has an optional preventive care option.
Caveats: If you have a potbellied pig, iguana or cockatoo, Nationwide is the obvious (and only) choice. But while Nationwide provides detailed information about its coverage for dogs and cats on its website, its information for exotic pets is much more limited.
You cannot view sample policies or get quotes for your exotic pets online. Instead, you have to call and speak with an agent to get that information or purchase a policy. For people that are looking to purchase coverage quickly, that extra hurdle can be frustrating.
Best Pet Insurance Companies
Why We Picked It: When your pet is sick or hurt, the last thing you want to worry about is money. With most pet insurers, the company will only cover your veterinary expenses once you reach your deductible, which can be $1,000 or more.
Trupanion is one of the few companies that offers a $0 deductible option, so it will start covering your expenses right away.
Trupanion is also one of the only companies, along with Pets Best, that offers direct payments through its veterinary network. If you have a major medical expense, such as emergency surgery for a dog experiencing bloat, that feature eliminates the need to pay thousands upfront. Instead, Trupanion will pay the vet directly, up to 90% of your total bill.
Trupanion offers unlimited reimbursement, so there’s no limit on how many claims you submit or how much it will pay out.
Caveats: Compared with the other insurers on our list, Trupanion tended to be more expensive. Its premiums were higher than the average for both cats and dogs of different ages and breeds.
Trupanion also has fewer ways to customize your policy. Other companies have multiple options to choose from regarding annual reimbursement limits and reimbursement percentages, so you can adjust the coverage to suit your budget. But Trupanion only offers plans with 90% reimbursement and unlimited benefits, so there aren’t many ways to save money.
Best For Quick Reimbursement
Why We Picked It: Because most pet insurance companies work via reimbursement, you typically have to wait several days for the company to process your claim and issue a check. When a vet bill is thousands of dollars, that wait can be inconvenient, if not stressful.
With Lemonade, your claims can be reimbursed within minutes rather than days or weeks.
Lemonade uses a completely digital claims process to expedite claims. You can file a claim through the Lemonade app on your mobile device and enter your bank account information when you submit the claim.
Lemonade reviews the claim within minutes and issues your reimbursement through electronic transfer to your account, getting you your money faster.
Caveats: Lemonade isn’t available nationwide. As of 2022, it’s available in 37 states, so residents of other states, such as Maine and Idaho, will have to work with another insurer to get coverage.
If you aren’t eligible for a policy through Lemonade, another company that offers a digital claims process and mobile app is Embrace Pet Insurance.
Best For Coverage On A Budget
Why We Picked It: Pet insurance can be a major expense, especially for senior pets. For example, a 10-year-old Labrador retriever will typically cost over $100 per month to insure with a traditional accident and illness policy—nearly double the cost of insuring a younger dog.
For people who want some protection for their pets without the sky-high premiums, accident-only coverage from ASPCA Pet Health Insurance can be a useful alternative.
Accident-only policies cover diagnostics and treatments for new injuries related to accidents. For example, an accident-only policy will cover the X-rays and surgery to repair a broken limb or wound, but it doesn’t cover treatments for illnesses like cancer or hip dysplasia.
ASPCA’s accident-only coverage starts at just $10 per month. You can adjust the reimbursement percentage, annual reimbursement limit and deductible to suit your budget, and your pet’s coverage will never be downgraded or canceled due to age.
Caveats: With ASPCA, you can opt to make payments monthly or annually. While monthly payments may be more manageable for your budget, you should know that ASPCA adds a processing fee to customers that choose a monthly payment plan. The fee can vary by states, but generally adds about $2 to your monthly cost.
While ASPCA allows you to submit claims online, it can take several days to review your claim and issue you your reimbursement.
You can help speed up the process by signing up for direct deposit so that ASPCA can electronically transfer the reimbursement amount for approved claims to your account.
Best For Holistic Treatments
Why We Picked It: Pet healthcare has come a long way. Veterinarians are increasingly offering holistic and complementary treatments to help pets dealing with chronic issues or recovering from serious injuries.
Not all pet insurance companies offer coverage for holistic or complementary therapies, but Prudent Pet does as long as the treatment is recommended and overseen by a licensed veterinarian.
Whether your pet needs acupuncture to manage joint pain or chiropractic care to improve mobility, Prudent Pet’s policies can provide the necessary coverage.
Plus, Prudent Pet’s policies include additional benefits that you don’t typically get with pet insurance, such as vacation cancellation coverage if you need to cancel a trip because your pet is ill.
Caveats: Although Prudent Pet could be a good option for some pet owners, it only works via reimbursement, and it can take up to 30 days to process claims. If you have substantial veterinary expenses, that can mean you have to use a credit card or drain your savings to cover the cost until you receive your reimbursement check.
Other Companies We Considered
Pumpkin didn’t make our list of top insurers because of its coverage limits. Pumpkin doesn’t have flexibility in its reimbursement levels; the only option is 90% reimbursement, and it caps annual reimbursement at $20,000 for dogs and $15,000 for cats.
For most people, that’s plenty of coverage, but for pets that need extensive care—such as those undergoing radiation therapy for cancer or surgery to repair torn ligaments—the coverage limit may be too low.
Pet owners that want the peace of mind of unlimited annual reimbursement should opt for a company like Trupanion or Pets Best.
Healthy Paws includes treatments for holistic or alternative therapies in its basic accident and illness plan. But Healthy Paws doesn’t cover hip dysplasia—a common ailment affecting millions of dogs—in pets enrolled at the age of six or older, a much stricter limit than other companies.
And Healthy Paws offers limited reimbursement percentages ]for older pets.
Pet Insurance 101
If you haven’t purchased pet insurance before, researching the available coverage options can be confusing. Pet insurance works differently than health insurance for humans, so understanding the ins and outs can help you pick the right policy for you and your pet. Here are the key things you need to know about pet insurance.
Types Of Pet Insurance
When You Buy Pet Insurance, There Are Three Types You Can Purchase:
* Accident and illness: Accident and illness insurance, also known as major medical or complete coverage, covers the diagnosis and treatment of unexpected illnesses or accidents. It’s what you use if your pet develops cancer, needs care for a bite wound or has an intestinal blockage.
* Accident-only: As the name suggests, accident-only coverage only pays for the diagnosis and treatment of injuries related to accidents. If your pet is hit by a car or bitten by another dog, accident-only coverage would pay for the necessary treatment. But it wouldn’t cover illnesses like kennel cough or feline diabetes. Because they’re more limited, accident-only policies are significantly cheaper than accident and illness policies.
* Wellness/routine care: Some insurance companies allow you to add wellness or routine care to your pet insurance policy for an additional fee. With a wellness plan, the company will reimburse you, up to an annual limit, for routine care, such as vaccinations, wellness exams or flea and tick treatments.
No form of pet insurance covers pre-existing conditions, meaning illnesses or injuries that started before your policy effective date or during the policy waiting period.
How Pet Insurance Claims Work
When you purchase a pet insurance policy, you can usually choose a reimbursement limit, a reimbursement percentage and a deductible.
* The reimbursement limit is the maximum amount the insurer will pay you for all of your claims in a year. For example, a company may cover up to $10,000 per year.
* The reimbursement percentage is the portion of your vet bills the insurer will cover. Percentage usually range between 70% and 90% of the total amount.
* The deductible is how much of your pet’s vet bills you have to cover before your insurer will begin reimbursing you for claims.
For example, let’s say you bought a policy with a $500 deductible, a $10,000 annual reimbursement limit and a 70% reimbursement percentage. Your dog had an accident and needed a $2,000 surgery.
You’re responsible for the deductible—$500—and your insurer would cover 70% of the remaining $1,500. In this case, your insurer would cover $1,050, and you would have to pay the rest out of pocket.
The majority of pet insurance companies work via reimbursement. You must pay the veterinarian for your pet’s care at the time of service, and you submit a claim to the insurer afterward. The insurance company reviews the claim and reimburses you for a portion of approved expenses.
However, there are some companies, such as Trupanion and Pets Best, that have direct payment options.
Factors That Affect Your Pet Insurance Premiums
When it comes to your pet insurance premiums, your cost is dependent on several factors. To give you an idea of what to expect, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, or NAPHIA, reported that the average cost of accident and illness coverage for dogs was $828 per year. For cats, the average annual cost was $427.
Factors That Affect Your Premiums Include:
* Pet Age: Your pet’s premiums will increase as your pet ages. And some insurers won’t issue new policies to senior pets.
* Breed: Some breeds are more prone to illnesses and injuries than others, so breeds that pose higher risk are more expensive to insure. According to NAPHIA, the most expensive dog breeds to insure include English bulldogs, French bulldogs, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers and Great Danes. For cats, the most expensive breeds to insure are Siamese, Bengals and Himalayans.
* Deductible: The deductible is how much you have to pay before the insurer will begin covering your pet’s treatment. Depending on the company, you can typically choose a deductible between $0 and $1,000. The lower the deductible, the higher your monthly premiums will be.
How We Picked
We selected WSJ’s best pet insurance companies based on their policy options, reimbursement limits, premiums and exclusions.
We also looked for insurers that had relatively short waiting periods and no restrictions on age or breed so that pet owners could find coverage for any dog or cat.
For pricing, we requested quotes from each insurer for different breeds of dogs and cats at various ages. We compared those quotes to the averages reported by NAPHIA’s industry report.
We evaluated 18 pet insurance companies to identify the six best, using the companies listed by NAPHIA.
Doggie Mansions And Tiffany Bowls: Lifestyles Of Rich And Famous Pets
One man built a $10,000 dog abode, but his pooches refused to move in.
Robbie Timmers went all-out adding a contemporary-style house on his property in Thailand. White with chic black trim, the two-story, air-conditioned abode has security cameras, smart lighting and a sliding door to the porch.
Mr. Timmers would have added a swimming pool, too, but his wife objected. Her reasoning? It seemed unnecessary for the home’s intended occupants: the couple’s five dogs.
The roughly 10-foot-high canine mansion was designed and installed as a relaxing space for the couple’s pups, and sits in the backyard of—and matches—the Timmerses’ own home. “I wanted to have something that looks cool,” says Mr. Timmers. “I love it so much.”
Pets these days are living more luxurious lives than ever as humans increasingly pour money into making their properties fetching for nonhuman family members.
The rub: Sometimes the pets don’t dig it.
“I have to be honest, my dogs never set foot in the house,” says Mr. Timmers, who spent about $10,000 on it. “They just didn’t like it.” Nowadays, the mini-house mostly sits empty.
“It has everything,” he adds. “Just no dogs.”
Moreover, all these swanky, special-made pet amenities inevitably have a shorter shelf life than those for humans.
“If we’re going to customize our homes to our pet, we have to realize that there will come a time when it might not be relevant, or we want to change it out,” says HGTV personality Jasmine Roth, known for creating “pet nooks” for clients.
Ms. Roth experienced this recently with the death of Tiger, her Chihuahua. She had built little Tiger a nook under the stairs, complete with plaid wallpaper and vintage mirrors.
“I wish I had recorded the call when my wallpaper installer arrived,” Ms. Roth recalls. At first, he couldn’t find the space he’d been hired to wallpaper. “I was like, ‘Look down.”
The door was so tiny, the installer could barely fit inside, though he eventually squeezed in. Now, with Tiger gone, the only occupant of the pet nook is Ms. Roth’s toddler daughter, who uses it as a fairy cave.
Social media has helped popularize deluxe pet items, says Sara Pijuan of Los Angeles-based Pijuan Design Workshop, which makes Midcentury Modern dog houses costing from $3,750 to $5,000.
The company also creates custom dog houses for clients; one, for a family in London, was designed to look like a Japanese teahouse.
Paris Hilton’s pooches have enjoyed an air-conditioned two-story, Spanish-style villa, known as “Doggie Mansion” and sporting a chandelier and a balcony with wrought-iron railing, according to her Instagram feed. (She says that was at her old home, and she no longer lives there.)
Doug the Pug is a lovable pooch whose penchant for wearing elaborate costumes has earned him over 1 billion viewers across social-media platforms.
At the Nashville, Tenn., home Doug shares with his owners, Leslie Mosier and Rob Chianelli, the pug has his own 15-foot closet for his outfits, including tiny cowboy hats, cashmere sweaters, a rainbow of sunglasses, custom harnesses from London and a Boda Skins leather jacket.
“For the longest time, we had giant bins,” recalls Ms. Mosier. “If we needed to find an outfit, it was horrible.”
She tapped the organizing company The Home Edit to make Doug a supersize closet, and now Doug’s clothes are organized by categories such as “athleisure” and “bath time.”
“It’s way bigger than my closet,” notes Ms. Mosier, Doug’s full-time career manager. “You walk downstairs and you’re like ‘whoa’.”
Among other perks, Doug also only drinks purified water at home, she says, and routinely sees a canine herbalist and acupuncturist.
Nala Cat, who holds the Guinness World Record for the cat with the most Instagram followers, is a rescue who lives with owners, Varisiri Methachittiphan and Shannon Ellis, along with five other cats and a dog.
The couple’s house in California sports more than 10 cat trees and a “cat wall” mounted with feline lounging perches. Yet Nala yawns at the accouterments provided by her staff. She prefers to sleep in a cardboard box.
The country’s most pampered pets surely include those belonging to Lisa Vanderpump, the restaurateur and former star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” At their estate, Ms. Vanderpump and her husband, Ken Todd, have a menagerie including six dogs, four swans and two miniature horses.
One of their Pomeranians, Puffy, is always nattily dressed, with Ralph Lauren cashmere turtlenecks and fluffy feather Maxbone dog sweaters, Ms. Vanderpump says. Puffy wears pajamas at night.
Ms. Vanderpump, who is also co-founder of the Vanderpump Dog Foundation, says it is important to her that amenities for her dogs fit in aesthetically with the décor of her home. Hence her dog beds in a dusky-pink hue, from the brand Hooman, which retail for $375 each.
The beds come with velvet headboards, mattresses, tiny pillows and 400-thread-count fitted sheets. “It looks really cute,” she says. Plus, “I don’t want them sitting in a dirty bed, so to change the sheets is just great.”
Pet stairs from Le Pet Luxe—retail price $338—help her dogs climb in and out of her bed. Her pups eat human food, she says, usually poached salmon or organic chicken, out of turquoise-blue bowls from Tiffany & Co.
That is just inside. Several years ago, the couple adopted miniature horses named Diamonds and Rosé and set them up in the backyard in a pink house with gray trim built by luxury real-estate developer Mohamed Hadid, a friend of the couple’s.
When Rosé died, a heartbroken Ms. Vanderpump got another miniature horse, Velvety, to keep Diamonds company, but “there was an adjustment period at the beginning where they fought for control.” After kicks were exchanged, the couple doubled the size of the horse house to give the roomies some space.
On Washington’s Vashon Island, Linda Hatfield decided to build a “catio,” or outdoor cat enclosure, after her cat Watson dragged in one too many rats.
She enlisted Cynthia Chomos of Seattle-based Catio Spaces to build a 14-foot, L-shaped structure off the kitchen, with the same cedar trim and striped awnings as the rest of the house. “Otherwise it just wouldn’t fit,” says Ms. Hatfield, who spent about $20,000 on the structure.
While Ms. Hatfield’s four cats enjoy the catio, all hasn’t gone exactly to plan. When she adopted Boris, a nearly 20-pound Maine Coon, he was too tall. “He was banging his head on the roof,” she says.
So she asked Ms. Chomos to elevate the roof. And Fergus, her Scottish Fold, learned how to open doors, a trick he taught Boris.
Ms. Hatfield’s solution didn’t require a big budget—just a bungee cord to secure the door.
Your Pet Is Costing You A Fortune And You Don’t Care
The global pet economy is expected to reach nearly half a trillion dollars by 2030. After a pandemic surge in pet adoptions, more people are buying ever more expensive food and toys for their furry friends.
But beyond these routine costs, a growing number of owners are also shelling out thousands for veterinary care to treat complex illnesses and keep their pets alive for longer.
Bloomberg reporters Brendan Case and Nacha Cattan join this episode to give an expansive view of the industry, including how new diagnostic tools and medications are extending pet lifespans—and wearing down owners’ wallets.
The Best Pet Workplaces Offer Bereavement And Pawternity Leave
A 12-hour conference was held in Los Angeles on Thursday that gathered the nation’s top thought leaders in the emerging field of employee pet benefits.
Therapy puppies awaited petting in the lobby. A gospel choir sang from a second-story railing. Rocket Larry, a 50-pound African sulcata tortoise who is best friends with Puka, a mixed-breed dog with a cleft palate and a social media following, walked the red carpet, one more significantly slowly than the other.
Thus began Best Pet Workplaces, a 12-hour conference in Los Angeles on Thursday that gathered the nation’s top thought leaders in the emerging field of employee pet benefits.
Executives from Google, Imax, Nationwide, REI, Starbucks, Sweetgreen, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, United Airlines, Walmart, Whole Foods and Zoom sat on panels in front of more than 100 attendees.
They discussed the opportunity companies had to offer pawternity leave (time off when you get a dog, also known as Gotcha Days, which should be celebrated annually like a birthday), pet bereavement days, dog boarding in the office, discounted pet insurance, and the ultimate perk: granting the right to bring your pet to work.
The word “inclusivity” was used a lot, though not in the way DEI trainers usually do. These people were talking about including other species in the workplace.
Clinton Misamore, co-founder and chief executive officer of WUF (With U Forever), which hosted the conference, called it a TED conference for dogs.
“The fact that this hasn’t already been done blows me away,” he said. WUF, which launched a year and a half ago, hopes to be the center for the country’s dog community.
It threw the dog-themed art fair WUFxArt at the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace building in Playa Vista, California, and the dog-friendly music festival WUFxMusic in Malibu. This summer it it plans to launch dog meetups led by WUF ambassadors this summer in Los Angeles.
Thursday’s conference was to help build a list of pet-friendly companies called Best Pet Workplaces— a seal of approval for pet-loving companies.
On stage, executives competed to show off how pet-friendly their workplaces are. Andres Traslavania, head of executive search at Whole Foods Inc., a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc., bragged that his offices not only allow pets but instituted Furry Fridays, in which employees share photos of their animals.
Sure, there were some challenges in letting pets run around the office, but Traslavania said they were all surmountable.
“You have to distract your legal team by giving them some cookies,” he said. It was unclear if he came to this solution because he worked at Whole Foods or spent too much time incentivizing dogs.
But Michiel Bakker, vice president of global workplace development for Google, part of Alphabet, Inc., said that while Google allows pets in the office (he couldn’t confirm the rumor that a python was once lost in the New York City office), it’s smart for companies to set very clear rules.
“People will ask, ‘Can we define what a dog is? What about a wolf?’” he warned.
Still, Bakker said, companies need to make employees more comfortable at work. “People are not well. People are very lonely,” he said. If bringing their best friend with them to the office helps subdue their anxiety, Bakker is all for it.
“We’re a dog-friendly organization. But we’re a cat-friendly social media platform,” he said. The audience was surprisingly rapt the entire time. Not one of them had to be commanded to sit.
During the pandemic, employees got used to being home with their pets and showing them off in Zoom meetings, often a bit too much.
Getting employees back in the office might require getting their pets there, too. Especially since more than 11 million households got a new pet during the pandemic, including 1 in 6 members of Gen Z.
In a 2021 survey conducted by Nationwide, the largest provider of pet insurance, 72% of workers at pet-friendly companies said they wouldn’t switch jobs for the same salary; only 44% of people at non-pet-friendly companies said the same.
Nationwide’s fastest-growing sector is pet insurance, which has been climbing 20% a year—twice the growth rate of the overall pet industry. Most of it is sold at a discount through people’s employers.
But since only 3% of pets have insurance, a lot more growth is possible in the next decade, says Heidi Sirota, chief pet officer for Nationwide.
Sirota, who wore a shirt she made with a repeating pattern of her Yorkie-Pomeranian mix, Cashew, said that her entire pet division has gone virtual, so they could be with their pets. Millennials and Gen Z, she says, aren’t going to negotiate on pet benefits.
“Dogs are their starter children and maybe their forever children,” she said. Her own kids think of their pets as the only children they need. “People my age are not going to have grandchildren.”
Boomers and Gen X may have never won the fight for child day care. But their kids did. In their own way.
Luxury Apartment Buildings Tempt Renters With Over-the-Top Pet Amenities. ‘Dog People Really Are Dog People.’
Dog art class, ‘yappy hours,’ rooftop play spaces: How developers court high-price tenants.
The beauty pageant was in full swing outside an apartment complex in an Atlanta suburb. Decked out contestants pranced up and down a red carpet, while dozens of residents cheered and snapped photos.
The winner, who wore a custom-tailored red gown made by one of the tenants, went by the name Choupette. The gown didn’t quite cover her tail.
It’s unlikely Choupette understood everything that happened that night, even though her prizes included a stuffed catfish toy and a container of dehydrated chicken livers.
Chris Melerski, the building resident who owns the Greater Swiss Mountain dog that won the crown—a gold foam board cutout, trimmed with faux white fur—was very appreciative.
“Dog people really are dog people,” he said. “When they offer things like this where you live, it means a lot.”
For years, pet needs tended to be an afterthought for the firms that managed luxury apartment towers. Landlords believed that showering tenants with deluxe amenities such as fitness centers, swimming pools, basketball courts and outdoor grilling stations was the way to fill up a building and command high rents.
Covid-19 altered that calculus after an explosion in pandemic pets. Millions of Americans adopted dogs as companions for long stretches stuck at home.
Pet mania has unleashed fierce competition among property owners to lure new tenants by offering the most generous—and sometimes over-the-top—dog perks, from dog schools to pet happy hours and giant rooftop dog parks.
About 36% of U.S. apartment residents had a pet in 2022, according to a survey by the National Multifamily Housing Council.
“From the moment you start thinking about your business plan and start thinking about the design, you’re thinking about pet owners,” said Raul Tamez, a senior director for Greystar Real Estate Partners, the largest U.S. apartment manager, which operates more than 2,800 rental properties.
Greystar’s San Diego luxury high rise features a “bark bar” in the lobby with treats, bowls of water and a list of every five-star dog walker who works nearby.
Landlords say renters are prioritizing the needs of their pooches over other factors long considered the most crucial when choosing a place to live.
A survey of 1,170 apartment renters this year by developer Cortland found that dog owners rank a building’s pet policies, such as size restrictions and fees, as more important than even the cost of rent or a property’s location, according to the Atlanta-based firm that manages more than 250 apartment properties.
When Mike and Kelli Callanan looked for a new place to live in New York City, their pet’s needs were top of the list. The Manhattan building they found features a pet-bathing and grooming area, and doormen with a weakness for doling out dog treats.
“Darby was the main reason that we moved,” said Kelli Callanan, referring to their mini bernedoodle.
New York developer Related hired a designer to build a 5,600-square-foot rooftop dog park atop a San Francisco apartment building.
The park is matted out in artificial turf and includes a replica fire hydrant to encourage bathroom breaks. Staff take care of cleaning.
In New York and other cities, Related also created Dog City, a daycare with activities including art, gardening and baking, aimed to accommodate dogs that live in its buildings.
For one project, staff dipped dogs’ paws in pet-safe paint and guided them where to stomp around the canvas to form the shape of a tree—one of many activities likely more entertaining for the owners than the dogs.
Employees dressed pups up as artists to take photos of each with their paintings. Charcoal and Ashes, Annette Krayn’s two Chihuahuas, gave the art to their “Grandma.”
All dogs undergo temperament exams to ensure they can get along with daycare classmates. New dogs meet with each existing member individually, under the supervision of staff on the lookout for troublemakers.
“It’s harder than getting into a kindergarten at this point,” said Krayn. Charcoal initially failed the test—Krayn said he was dealing with anxiety after a kidnapping incident—so she enlisted a handler to help him pass the exam.
Cortland hosts “Yappy Hours.” The outdoor mixers offer peanut butter and pretzel swirl flavored Ben & Jerry’s Doggie Desserts and “pup cup” ice cream for the dogs, and pizza, tacos and loaded fries from food trucks for the humans.
At some buildings, staff set up sprinklers, mini inflatable pools and splash pads in the dog park.
In New York, the Callanans’ dog, Darby, slipped away from the person who was walking her on Randall’s Island while the family was away in Massachusetts.
Darby found her way across the river and back to her building in Manhattan, sopping wet. The doormen recognized her right away, and helped get her to a vet’s emergency room, where she spent two days recovering.
Dog City, the doggy daycare, sent Darby a get-well-soon gift basket that included blankets, toys, a Yeti water bowl, dog treats and a $100 Dog City gift card, with a note that read: “She is a miracle and a celebrity in our eyes with her amazing yet terrifying adventure.”