Is the Government Going to the Dogs?

View this article online at and visit to sign up for free news updates
By on March 23, 2017 in Agency News with 0 Comments
Three puppies who are part of a dog sled team at Denali look curiously at the camera

Pups are part of a sled dog team at Denali National Park — the only national park in the U.S. with working dogs.

At least one federal agency is going to the dogs.

The Department of Interior Secretary has announced his fondness for dogs on Twitter, including allowing dogs in the workplace. Perhaps his dog fondness is due to today (March 23) being National Puppy Day. There is even a “National Puppy Day” website.

Here is the tweet from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke noting that the purpose of the Interior Department “Dog Days” notice is to boost morale and to lower employee stress.

Most Well Publicized Animal Lover

We can assume that the new Interior Secretary currently stands out in the administration as the most well publicized animal lover. Zinke has an 18-month old black and white Havanese dog named Ragnar.

According to the agency, he also rode a horse to work in his first day on the new job. He started from the National Mall, where the National Park Service has stables, to the Interior Department’s main building. The main building for the Interior Department is just off the Mall.

He was greeted by more than 350 federal employees. A song was played on a hand drum by a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee from Montana’s Northern Cheyenne tribe.

Dog Days are a Test

The dog days are a test program. According to the note to employees:

I’m taking action to establish a pilot program for Doggy Days at Interior!For two test days this year, Friday, May 5th and Friday, September 1st, the Main Interior Building and South Interior Building will be dog friendly. I understand some of you may have concerns about this policy. I’m all ears.

In the coming weeks we will issue requirements of the visiting pup as well as flexibilities for employees who would rather not interact with dogs at the workplace. While we are still working out details for both, items for consideration for dogs include: fully housebroken, vaccinated, and no history of violence. For employees, options to telework and other flexibilities are being considered.

Secretary Ryan Zinke is a former Navy Seal. He represented Montana in the House of Representatives since 2014 and became the Secretary of Interior on March 1st. Zinke is widely praised for his voting record that supports the Teddy Roosevelt philosophy of managing public lands, which calls for multiple-use to include economic, recreation and conservation aspects.

According to The Washington Post, this dog friendly policy is a first for the federal government. If the experiment works out, look for other agencies to jump on the dog friendly bandwagon.

Barred by Federal Regulation?

An astute FedSmith reader submitted a comment on this article shortly after it was published. As those of us who work for or with the federal government know, upon occasion, “No good deed goes unpunished.” And, even with the benefit of computers, finding any and all federal regulations controlling many things are difficult to locate or track.

The human resources specialist with the astute eye cited the following regulatory prohibition on allowing dogs into federal buildings.

41 CFR §102-74.425

Dogs and Other Animals

What is the policy concerning dogs and other animals on Federal property?

No person may bring dogs or other animals on Federal property for other than official purposes. However, a disabled person may bring a seeing-eye dog, a guide dog, or other animal assisting or being trained to assist that individual.

No doubt, the legal and human resources offices at the Department of Interior will be looking into this issue very quickly during the dog days experiment.

© 2020 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47