The Davison County Commission has created a policy that bars employees from bringing pets to work.
The commission voted unanimously to support the plan, and a similar resolution was passed replicating the policy for members of the public in county buildings, as well.
The issue came up when the commissioners said there are Davison County employees who are violating the proposed rules in recent weeks by bringing animals to the workplace.
“I think it makes sense,” Davison County Commissioner John Claggett said on March 30. “We need to stem the tide on this issue.”
During that meeting, the commissioners delayed a potential vote to enact the policy change, deciding to give employees a chance to comment and provide feedback on the planned policy.
On Tuesday, Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke read one response from an unnamed county employee who argued that emotional support animals have value in helping to combat anxiety and depression. In that letter, the employee wrote that needs for having animals in the workplace can vary and signage in the workplace could let the public know that there is an animal in a specific department.
Kiepke said the county’s deputy state’s attorney Jim Taylor noted that the policy decision would be completely up to the commission. And the commissioners were unmoved by the employee letter.
“I think we're OK with how it was originally presented,” Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said.
“It is going to be a real opinionated thing over emotional support animals,” Bode added later. “I don't need to get into that, to decide which day someone needs one and which day they don't.”
Attorney Lisa Marso, of Sioux Falls, who has provided counsel to the county in certain legal matters, also said the matter is enforceable by the county commission.
The policy says that the county is responsible for assuring the health and safety of its employees and the public and that bringing pets to work is a health and safety issue and creates an increased liability to the county.
The initial wording didn’t apply to visitors to county buildings, so a second resolution was created for the general public during the March 30 meeting. Also during that meeting, Commissioner Randy Reider recommended delaying action for a week to allow employees to review the new policy and provide feedback before commissioners approved it.
“It is a chance to say, ‘This is what we think needs to be done. What is your reaction?’ Reider said.
Certified service animals, with the proper paperwork, would still be allowed, in compliance with accommodation rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act because service animals are not defined as pets. A service animal, such as a service dog, is trained to perform a specific job or task related to a person’s disability.
Claggett, in particular, has bemoaned the issue in the workplace during past meetings, noting that airlines are no longer required to accommodate emotional support animals.
“You’re seeing those animals used for reasons that don’t pertain to a legitimate purpose in the workplace,” Claggett said on March 30.