WASHINGTON — Dog-loving Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is following through on his promise to make the federal agency dog-friendly.
In an email to staff on Thursday — National Puppy Day — Zinke declared “Doggy Days at Interior,” a pilot program aimed at boosting workplace morale. The Interior Department will be the first federal agency to adopt a dog-friendly policy, The Washington Post reports.
“Today is National Puppy Day, and I don’t know about you, but it makes me think of how much my family dog, Ragnar, makes my day better,” he wrote to the department’s 70,000 employees spread across the country. “Opening the door each evening and seeing him running at me is one of the highlights of my day.”
The program kicks off with “test days” on May 5 and Sept. 1 at the department’s Washington headquarters. Zinke noted that some employees may have concerns about the canine-friendly policy, and said he plans to issue rules for visiting dogs and flexibility for those who do not want to interact with them, including the ability to work outside the office.
“Scientific studies show having a dog around the office improves morale and productivity, and having dogs around the office has health benefits like reducing stress levels,” Zinke wrote. “Research suggests it might make you trust your coworker more and improve collaboration too. I’m willing to give it a shot and hope you’ll work with me in this new endeavor.”
Zinke, a former Montana congressman and Navy SEAL, arrived at his new post March 2 on horseback wearing a cowboy hat. He addressed his new staff a day later.
“I knew I was going to be a popular secretary because we’re going to make the building dog-friendly,” he said.
His dog, Ragnar, is a Havanese, a small, sturdy breed “of immense charm,” according to the American Kennel Club.
“I can’t even count how many miles I’ve driven across Montana with Ragnar riding shotgun, or how many hikes and river floats Lola and I went on with the little guy,” Zinke wrote in his email. “But I can tell you it was always better to have him.”
Zinke’s email makes no mention of cats, rabbits or any other pet species.
The announcement about the morale-boosting initiative comes one week after the White House unveiled its “America First” budget proposal, which calls for cutting the Interior Department’s budget 12 percent to $11.6 billion. Unlike his promise to allow dogs, Zinke appears to have backed off a commitment to fight Trump’s proposed budget cuts.