Not a month goes by, it seems, when the City of Madison doesn’t pass an ordinance or adopt a policy that would only provoke laughter or head-shaking in any other municipality across the state.
Last month, we lampooned “Mad Town” for proposing $50 fines for businesses and commercial buildings if they kept a door or window open while running air conditioning.
This month, they topped that by approving a dog-friendly policy that will allow city employees to bring their pooch to work in the City-County Building. Not just a one-time “Bring Your Pooch to Work Day,” but every day if the employee so chooses.
“Dogs have become welcomed as part of our lives in society,” said Deputy Madison Mayor Enis Ragland. Under the new policy, adopted by a 4-3 vote of a city-county committee, the canine companions of city workers would have to be housebroken and well-behaved, current on vaccinations, spayed or neutered, licensed and free of fleas.
The policy change was initiated by longtime Madison Mayor Paul Soglin. A survey of 500 city employees followed and found that 54.25 percent supported the proposal.
So Madison is going to the dogs — or rather the dogs are coming to local government. “Dogs tend to calm people, make people more friendly,” Ragland said. “It brings on collegiality, improves the workflow in offices and there are studies that show that, and they’re just fun to have around and it relaxes people.”
City officials said the new policy puts Madison on the cutting edge of a trend. They cited a 2016 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, which showed the number of employers that allow pets has jumped to 7 percent — almost double the rate of 4 percent that allowed pets in 2014.
Don’t get us wrong, we like dogs. At home.
If a business owner wants to have a pet in their store, well OK, that’s fine – if we don’t like it, we can always go to another store. That’s not so if you need to conduct business with the city — it’s the only government in town.
What about the employees — 35 percent of those surveyed objected to the policy — who said dogs in the office would decrease productivity, worsen allergies for some and increase anxiety for those who fear dogs?
How is it that canines were elevated to top-dog status among pets? Is Madison stamping its approval on a policy that is blatant anti-cat discrimination? What about pot-bellied pigs? Cockatoos? The occasional snake or salamander?
Or the celebrated emotional support peacock that was denied flight time by United Airlines? Could it strut its stuff in the City-County Building?
Our guess is that pooches in the workplace — no matter how friendly and well-behaved their owners say they are — will increase the risk of dog bites, dog fights and the occasional bit of dog doo in a cubicle.
Madison needs to muzzle this new policy, and perhaps Mayor Soglin and Deputy Mayor Ragland should check to make sure their rabies vaccinations are up to date.