Canfield company promotes heart health by bringing dogs to work - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Canfield company promotes heart health by bringing dogs to work on 'Best Friend Fridays'

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CANFIELD, Ohio -

The American Heart Association and one Canfield company are working together to promote heart health with the help of some four-legged friends. 

It's part of the AHA's Best Friend Fridays campaign, which asks employers to bring pets into the office to promote heart health. 

Tracy Behnke, the executive director of the American Heart Association Youngstown, says that the benefits of being around a dog are numerous. 

"On average, 34 percent of pet owners are more likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity every day," Behnke said. 

Keeping a dog in the office helps promote activity, specifically when it comes to playtime and bathroom breaks, especially since most people aren't as active as they should be at work.

"People don't see the benefits of even just getting up for ourselves. If there's something going on where you have to get up and take a break from the mental part of the day, something stressful going on, take a quick three-minute break. Take the pup outside, get some fresh air," she explained. 

Jeffrey Ryznar, the president of 898 Marketing, which has adopted Best Friend Fridays, says they've seen many benefits to having a furry friend around. 

"When Best Friend Fridays came to be, and we talked to the American Heart Association, and we talked to them about what they do, we thought, let's bring our pets in on Fridays and have a nice little relaxation for all of our team members and our pets as well,' Ryznar said. 

"Whenever there's a puppy around or a dog or some type of animal, everyone is a little bit lighter, everyone is a little bit friendlier, everyone is a little less on edge," he continued. 

The stress reduction is one of the main contributors to heart health, according to the American Health Association. 

"So it can be a big risk factor for high blood pressure, different things like that. If we're not reducing our stress or taking steps that can help reduce those things, high blood pressure is one of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and so stress is a big inhibitor of that," Behnke explains. 

Ryznar said the choice for him as a business owner was an easy one. 

"There was never a doubt, whenever she's in the office there's always a better day. So when we had the opportunity to be a part of this and bring her in, absolutely there was never a doubt or a worry about productivity or challenges that we might face."

But they're aware that having a dog around the office certainly can create some challenges. 

"It's a responsibility," Behnke said. 

Justin Markota, and attorney from Betras, Kopp & Harshman, says in the event of a bite, the business owner could be held liable. 

Markota explained that unless the dog was goaded into aggression, then both the dog owner and the business, which could be considered a "harborer" under Ohio law, could be found liable. 

Also, Markota says while their insurance covers homeowners in the case of dog bites, business owners typically wouldn't be under a business liability insurance plan. 

He advises that any business owner looking at the possibility of bringing animals into the office check with their insurance provider about liability coverage. 

Also, there are concerns over allergies, bathroom accidents, and more. 

Behnke said in that respect, Best Friend Fridays works well in smaller offices where employers are familiar with the staff and their needs. 

"Small businesses, like 898 Marketing, are a prime example. A lot of times if there are no allergies and you can have a smaller office, a controlled environment, it's a lot easier to do these kinds of things," she said. 

But as the first Valley business to jump on board, Ryznar had some common sense tips for others who are considering it. 

"The easiest advice I would give is just to think of it as your own home. If you wouldn't want your pet in your own home and you have guests over, chances are then it's probably not the best place for a pet to be in the office too," he explained. 

The American Heart Association has compiled toolkits for employees who want to make the case to their bosses about Best Friend Fridays, and also one for employers. 

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