Austin company paying employees to adopt pets, encourages 'pawternity leave'

Trey Gonzales and Denali (The Zebra)

An Austin-based company is encouraging its employees to welcome new additions to their homes and offering a new benefit: paying them to adopt pets.

The Zebra, an insurance comparison site with its offices located in East Austin, is covering expenses up to $300 annually for employees welcoming a cat or dog into their family. The company says it believes this is the first policy of its kind to be offered by an employer in the U.S.

In addition, employees are encouraged to use the company's paid time off policy to get acquainted with their new pet, sometimes referred to as "pawternity leave".

Zuma and Dixie, part of CEO Keith Melnick's family (The Zebra)


“There was a time a while ago when I took my Labrador, Zuma, with me on the train into my office daily. I know this kind of companionship can make a huge difference in quality of life and mental health. Especially now that we’re all working remotely for the foreseeable future, I want to make sure that anyone at The Zebra who wants to, can experience that,” says Keith Melnick, CEO of The Zebra, in a news release. 

Maribeliz Ortiz and Niko (The Zebra)

One of the employees that have taken advantage of the benefit is Maribeliz Ortiz, who recently adopted Niko, a miniature long-haired dachschund. Ortiz says that it's "really nice to be supported by my company to help start a family in the way I can right now."


Romy, part of Dan Kujanek's family (The Zebra)

Dan Kujanek is another employee who has used to benefit to welcome a second dog to his family. Kujanek says he and his wife had always wanted another dog to join their other dog Ripley and after a recent move, coupled with COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, it ended up being the perfect time to rescue and adopt Romy.

For more information about The Zebra you can go to its website.