Burns Pet Nutrition, a family company in Wales that makes specialist foods designed for the health and wellbeing of pets, has taken a remarkable and potentially significant step towards animal equality by employing three dogs into administration roles at the company’s head office in Kidwelly, West Wales.
Sally the Golden Retriever, Coco the Spaniel and Lola the Tibetan Terrier will all join the Burns workforce next month. The talented trio will be fulfilling a number of roles including meeting visitors, answering the telephone, transferring calls and packing orders – but they do have to pass a three month probation period with the company watching their work closely during that time.
Veterinary Surgeon John Burns has dedicated over half his life to the wellbeing of animals and promoting the benefits of natural pet food. Mr Burns has been running one of the UK’s most successful pet food companies, Burns Pet Nutrition, for almost 25 years.
His background made him well suited to try and meld a dog’s natural obedience and intelligence with the challenges of an office environment. While the idea of dogs completing office work sounds far-fetched, the company has invented some ingenious technology to make this a reality.
Sally the Golden Retriever, for example, has been trained to meet visitors in a specially designed reception room and fetch the appropriate person or employee by responding to a serious of commands. The visitor, prompted by signs in the waiting room, will be instructed to stand on different coloured squares in the room depending on why they are there. They also have the option of giving Sally a treat.
Speaking on his extraordinary decision to hire dogs, Mr Burns said:
"Dogs have remarkable capabilities. Working dogs are well-established in many industries such as farming and the police force, so why not the office too? Dogs have evolved over millennia and many lead a domesticated life, it's time to put them in the driving seat."
It was the company's charitable reading dogs scheme, Burns By Your Side, that inspired the decision. Since 2015, Burns By Your Side reading dog teams have been working with local schoolchildren to improve literacy and confidence skills across the county of Pembrokeshire.
Reading can be a scary experience for a child, but it has been found that reading to a canine reduces stress levels in children and creates an environment where children feel empowered and positive.
Katie Roderick, HR Manager at Burns, said: “We realised the potential and started a recruitment process. Sally, Lola and Coco really stood out to us. They always turn up on time, they’re friendly, hardworking and share our ethical company values. Are we barking mad? Let’s see when the trial period ends."