Handling Pet Concerns as a Pet-Friendly Business

Just like any concern you might get from a customer, with pet concerns, the most important thing you can do is listen carefully and try to respond fairly.

Where you can address a situation to allay pet concerns, do that. Where you can’t change the situation, or don’t want to, be honest and explain why.

And, keep in mind that sometimes when faced with a new situation like pets in businesses, customers just want to know that their perspective has been heard.

Here are tips to help you handle questions you might get from customers who aren’t used to pets in businesses.

How do I respond to a customer who has allergies and is concerned about coming into my pet-friendly business?

WHAT TO DO:

  • Minimize allergens by cleaning often, particularly soft surfaces like carpets and upholstery, to which allergens are most likely to cling.
  • If your business has the space, set aside a “pet-free” zone for those who prefer to remain away from visiting pets.
  • Consider having an amenities basket on hand with hand sanitizer, tissues and a lint roller, for customers who want to try to minimize allergens sticking with them.
  • Encourage customers to self-report, for example with a notation in your signage that says, “If you have allergies, please let a staff member know.”

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Thanks for bringing this up. We value your patronage and want you to be comfortable. Since we’ve become pet-friendly, we’ve kept pet concerns top of mind. We’ve increased our regular cleaning to be sure we’re minimizing pet allergens and keeping the space comfortable for everyone.
  • If your business has seating: Offer to seat the customer away from any currently visiting animals.
  • If the customer appears to already be having allergy symptoms: Offer amenities to help, such as tissues.
  • If a significantly-allergic customer is already there when a pet enters the business: See if the pet owner would be willing to stop back in a few minutes when the allergic shopper has departed.

WHAT TO KNOW:

  • Even without pets in businesses, pet allergens spread throughout public places because they are very lightweight and easily stick to things like clothing and shoes. WebMD estimates that 100% of homes have pet dander; the same is likely true of most public spaces.

How do I respond to pet concerns related to dirt from pets?

WHAT TO DO:

  • Minimize dirt by cleaning often, particularly in entrance areas where pets might track in dirt.
  • Add a welcome mat to catch dirt on pets’ (and people’s!) paws.
  • Consider having a “Clean Your Paws” amenities basket near the door with paper towel, pet-friendly wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.

WHAT TO SAY:

  • Thanks for bringing this up. We value your patronage and want you to be comfortable. Since we’ve become pet-friendly, we’ve increased our regular cleaning to be sure our business stays clean for everyone who visits.

OR

  • You know, we were a little worried about that at first too. But as it turns out, pet owners are so glad to be able to bring their pets inside, they are very responsible. We really aren’t having any issues or pet concerns. People want to be respectful when they bring their pets with them.

How do I respond to a customer who is afraid of pets?

WHAT TO SAY:

  • I’m glad you told me. We value your patronage and want you to be comfortable. Would you like me to assist you while you shop, and I can help make sure the pets here keep their distance?

OR

  • I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable. We want you to have a great experience here. What can I do to help make you feel safe?

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Don’t try to change someone’s mind. There’s a time for that — we all want to help more people love pets! — but a moment of fear while a customer is visiting your business is not the time to do that. Even if you happen to know that a particular pet is friendly and easy-going, don’t force an introduction. Focus on helping the customer get what they need and depart feeling safe.

How do I ask someone nicely to remove their pet from my business?

WHAT TO SAY:

  • It seems like your dog isn’t super comfortable right now. We want you to have the best experience possible while you’re here. Do you want to take him outside and see if a break makes him more comfortable?

OR

  • It seems like this isn’t a great environment for your pet right now. Why don’t you come back another day and hopefully she’ll be more comfortable.

OR

  • Your pet seems like he might be uncomfortable. Is it possible he needs a bathroom break?

OR

  • Your pet seems a little anxious. I wonder if you could take her outside for a break, to see if that helps her settle down a bit?

OR

  • Your pet seems uncomfortable. Could you please take him outside for a bit, to see if that helps? I’m afraid other customers are a bit nervous.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

  • Don’t offer to take the pet out yourself and be sure staff members know not to do so. Pet owners must remain responsible for their pets.

How do I deal with pet accidents?

WHAT TO DO:

  • Have cleaning products and paper towel on hand, to clean up.
  • Don’t ask the customer to clean up. You will want to ensure the cleaning job meets your standards.
  • Do ask the customer to take the pet outside in case he or she needs another break.

WHAT TO SAY:

  • It’s ok! Accidents happen and we love pets. Next time, please just be sure to take your pet to visit a local waste station for a break before coming inside.

How do I respond to customers who ask why my business can’t have pets inside?

WHAT TO SAY IF YOUR BUSINESS IS NOT A SAFE PLACE FOR PETS:

  • We love pets! Above all, we want them to be safe, and our products / equipment / environment is not the best place for furry friends. We’re really excited about the Pets Welcome program, though. We’re supporting it in other ways, like …. [list ways].

WHAT TO SAY IF ORDINANCES FORBID PETS IN YOUR TYPE OF BUSINESS:

  • We love pets! And we wish we could have them here too. But the current local ordinances don’t allow it and we need to comply with the law. We’re really excited about the Pets Welcome program, though. We’re supporting it in other ways, like …. [list ways]

Want more tips? Check out the Pets Welcome Toolkit for info about how to launch a pet-friendly business initiative that can benefit businesses, pet owners and pets.

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With the Playbook for Pet-Friendly Cities, you’re on your way to a happier, healthier place for people and pets alike.