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Return-to-office mandates have created a surge in unsuspecting victims: Dogs

freemixer—Getty Images

It’s not just home office equipment and tech companies that have fallen victim to return-to-office mandates—dogs have become the latest casualty of the corporate push to ditch working from home.

With less time at home for workers to adequately care for their furry friends, new research shows that animal shelters are becoming increasingly inundated with unwanted dogs.

After record-breaking levels of pet adoption during the pandemic, dogs taken in by shelters in the U.S. rose by 6% from January to November 2022 and are up about 22% since 2021, according to Shelter Animals Count.

While older dogs have frequently faced being neglected, Shelter Animals Count’s executive director Stephanie Filer told Bloomberg that the organisation has seen an unprecedented surge in puppies and pure breeds being given up for adoption this year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U-turn in people no longer wanting pandemic puppies comes as some 2.5 million American workers faced orders to return to the office in 2023.

Similarly, in the U.K. more than 1 million dogs were given up for adoption last year, as tightening RTO mandates left many pet owners unable to afford adequate care for their pets during the day.

According to Novuna Business Cash Flow, 10% of pet owners rehomed their dogs between 2022 and 2023 and a further 11% considered it, with “the reduction in opportunities to work from home” cited as their top reason for doing so.

Owners have to pick between RTO mandates and their pet

Workers who own pets are being forced to make the tough choice between complying with their employer’s in-office mandates (and therefore either fork out for a dog sitter or give up their pet) or finding a more flexible role.

One CEO last year even praised an employee for getting rid of her pet to meet the company’s new in-office policy because in his eyes it demonstrated her willingness to work hard.

Clearlink chief executive, James Clarke, was seen telling employees during a town hall event that staff needed to give their “blood, sweat, and tears” during working hours.

“One of our leaders, in the midst of hearing this message, went out and sold their family dog, which breaks my heart,” he said, in the memo which went viral soon after. “But truly, those are the sacrifices that are being made, and I honor you for those sacrifices.”

But for the most part, pet-owning workers would rather take a pay cut at another company than give up their four-legged friend for the office; In fact, more than a third of dog owners would give up perks like gym reimbursement and free lunches to work remotely with their pooch, Forbes research found.

Meanwhile, around a quarter of dog owners would take a 10% pay cut, and around the same percentage of respondents would rather take a job that offers fewer vacation days, over commuting to an office and ditching their dog day in and day out.

This story was originally featured on