It Was Dog Day Afternoon (and Morning) at the U.S Department of the Interior

For the first time ever, a public agency has joined a host of private businesses in welcoming dogs into the workplace.

Under a pilot program initiated by U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, 80 dogs accompanied their human parents to work last Friday. The move was designed by the Secretary to reduce stress and boost employee morale in the workplace. Currently, about 20 percent percent of American companies - including Amazon, Google and Ben and Jerry’s - allow pets in the workplace.

So much for White House dogs getting all the attention.

Zinke, a former Navy Seal and Montana congressman, may have telegraphed his intent to create a pet-friendly workplace when he arrived on horseback for his first day of work on March 1st. Since then, Zinke has often brought his own dog, a black and white Javanese named Ragnar, to the office with him.

“Ragnar is our ‘Ambassador to Happiness’ here at the Department of the Interior,” Zinke told CBS News. If you’re having a bad day, Ragnar is is really good at making the day just a little bit better.”

But Zinke was not one to keep the comforts of a furry family member all to himself.  Zinke believed that anyone under his command should be able to bring in their pooch so long as they met certain criteria. Dogs needed to be people-friendly, well-behaved and be current on vaccinations. Interested employees simply had to fill out a dog profile application and review and sign the attached Rules and Acknowledgement of Responsibility form by April 21st.

Soon after assuming his post, Zinke began a countdown to “Doggie Day” by Twitter-posting pictures of some some of the dogs expected to accompany his subordinates to work. On Friday morning, smiling employees and their dogs could be seen padding through the halls of the DOI complex and greeting other four-legged friends before settling in for the day’s work - with a few well-timed breaks to cuddle and play fetch.

Zinke was sensitive to concerns that the presence of dogs might disrupt the workplace or trigger allergy symptoms.“Not everyone loves dogs,” Zinke acknowledges, “and we’re respectful of that, too.”

Asked if cats were next to be allowed at the DOI, Zinke replied, “Well, we’ll take it one step at a time.” The next doggie “test” day at the DOI is September 1st.

U.S. Presidents have been bringing their dogs to work for generations. However, President Trump is the first president not to have a dog in the White House in nearly 130 years.

“I’d even let [the President] borrow Ragnar for a test trial,” Zinke said, “As long as I get him back.”