There is no question that Americans love their pets. Our dogs, cats and other furry friends are as much a part of our families as any human. And our love affair with our pets is evidenced by the booming pet services industry, with billions of dollars being spent every year on grooming, walking and pet sitting services.
If you own a pet grooming, dog walking or pet sitting business, you provide a wonderful service to passionate pet owners. At the same time, as business owner, you face risks that can hinder your success or even force you out of business.
In order to protect your reputation and your livelihood, you need business insurance that addresses your unique exposures.
Today, 45 million U.S. households own dogs and 20 million households own cats (Packaged Facts report, U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2014 – 2015).
These are facts according to the American Pet Products Association:
- Total U.S. pet industry expenditures in 2015 were $60.28 billion.
- Total expenditures on pet grooming and boarding in 2015 were $5.41 billion.
Pet Groomers Insurance
Pet groomers are highly sought-after professionals who help pet owners keep their special companions clean and healthy. While you are entrusted with bathing, brushing, nail clipping and a variety of other services, you face numerous exposures to liability claims. An injured or lost pet could result in serious damage to your reputation as well as a lawsuit that could put you out of business forever.
You need comprehensive, tailored pet groomer insurance to help protect your livelihood.
Pet groomers must address the public liability risks associated with the general public and unpredictable pets coming into contact and sharing space on their premises. Commercial general liability insurance provides broad liability protection for third-party bodily injury and property damage. It pays for your legal defense, third party medical bills, settlements and judgments. CGL insurance also includes coverage for claims of advertising liability, libel and slander.
Some examples of incidents where pet groomers liability insurance can help you include the following:
- A customer's slip and fall on your premises
- A customer's dog biting another customer
- A dog's getting loose from your building, running into the street and causing a car crash
You may also need a variety of other special liability policies or coverage endorsements in order to make sure that all of your exposures are mitigated.
Pet groomers need property insurance to repair or replace lost, stolen or damaged property in instances of fire, certain weather events, smoke, theft or vandalism. Even if you rent your space, you still need property coverage for your business personal property – or the contents of your space –including office furniture, waiting room furniture or fixtures, grooming and washing stations, shampoos and grooming tools, leashes, kennels and crates, and other contents on your premises.
What if an animal in your care runs away or is stolen, lost or injured?
Animal bailee’s coverage is insurance designed for pet groomers and others in the pet services industry who temporarily take possession of other people’s pets, with the expectation that they will be returned unharmed. Animal bailee’s coverage provides protection where your standard property policy does not. Your business property policy will not pay for costs related to an injury, death or loss of a customer’s pet – or other people’s property that is in your care, custody or control. Bailee’s coverage may pay for resulting veterinary costs if an animal is injured or becomes ill while in your care and may even pay for costs related to lawsuits after such an incident.
You might be eligible for a business owners policy (BOP). The BOP is a convenient package policy that includes commercial liability insurance, commercial property insurance and business interruption insurance (pays for business expenses and lost income related to a temporary shutdown of your business due to a covered event). If you qualify for a BOP, you can still add endorsements or purchase any additional coverage that you might need.
Pet groomers might also need pet groomers professional liability insurance, or errors and omissions insurance. This is tailored liability coverage that protects you if a client claims you have been negligent in providing professional services. For example:
- a customer claims that a show dog doesn’t win a prize because of a poor haircut.
Regardless of whether or not you are at fault, you will still need to pay for your legal defense. Pet groomers professional liability insurance will help with those costs as well as any settlements or judgments that you are required to pay.
You may have some coverage for professional liability claims in your CGL policy, but the coverage may not be sufficient. Talk with your independent insurance agent about how to obtain the right amount of professional liability coverage for your needs.
Special Considerations for Mobile Pet Groomers
Mobile pet grooming services are becoming increasingly popular all around the country. Mobile pet groomers are very unique businesses with a special set of risks that are different from groomers with a storefront.
Your van or trailer and the equipment inside of it are irreplaceable; without them, you’d have no business. You are susceptible to break-ins, accidents, vandalism, theft, weather events and more. As well as needing liability insurance just like other pet groomers, you need insurance coverage to protect your grooming van and equipment:
- Commercial general liability insurance is necessary for broad liability protection.
- Bailee’s coverage protects you if animals are injured, lost or stolen while in your care.
- Professional liability insurance protects you from claims of negligence, errors and omissions in your services.
- Commercial auto insurance protects your mobile grooming van in the event of accidents and other collisions (e.g., if you hit a customer's mailbox or a tree falls on your van), theft, vandalism and weather events (e.g., hail or windstorm). It pays for repairs to your vehicle as well as medical bills, legal fees, and settlements or judgments that you are required to pay.
- Inland marine insurance protects grooming equipment and other business property inside your van, and in some cases the van itself. Standard commercial property insurance does not cover your business property while it is mobile; rather, you need inland marine insurance to protect the tools and other equipment you use in your work every day (commercial auto insurance does not cover this equipment either).
Pet Sitters and Doggy Daycare Insurance
If you own a pet sitting or doggy daycare business, your clients trust you to take care of their animals when they can’t. You may care for animals at your place of business or you may be invited into clients’ homes to care for their dogs, cats or other animals.
Pet sitters who work in clients’ homes may be tasked with a variety of activities other than just pet care. You may be asked to gather mail, water plants and more. Because pet sitting businesses vary so dramatically, it is wise for any pet-sitting business to work closely with an independent insurance agent to find the appropriate mix of insurance coverage for your unique business.
When you talk with your agent, consider the following types of pet sitting insurance:
- Commercial general liability insurance is for claims of bodily injury and property damage to third parties while you are pet sitting. It protects you whether you are in your own home or a client’s home or even whether you are out walking a client’s dog.
- Commercial property insurance is for damage to or loss of your business property, even if you have a home office. Homeowners insurance typically does not cover business property in your home, so you may need a separate commercial property policy to cover your home office, including phone systems, computers, records, office furniture and so on.
- Business interruption insurance helps you with business expenses and lost income if you must temporarily close due to a covered property loss (fire, weather event, etc.).
- Business owners policy provides the convenience of comprehensive coverage in an affordable package policy.
- Professional liability – or errors and omissions – insurance protects you when a client accuses you of providing negligent professional services.
- Animal bailee’s insurance covers costs related to animals that are injured, get sick or even die while in your care, custody or control. It may pay for related veterinary bills and legal costs related to these types of claims.
Doggy daycare or pet boarding businesses can be somewhat more complex than home-based pet sitting businesses. Pet boarders and doggy daycare are increasingly important for pet owners. According to the 2015 – 2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, dog owners spend approximately $333 per year on boarding services, while cat owners spend approximately $130 per year on boarding services.
Like other pet care businesses, kennels and doggy daycare facilities need a variety of business insurance policies to protect them. These range from standard CGL and commercial property policies (that can be tailored with limits and coverage endorsements that fit your needs), to the ever-important animal bailee’s coverage that provides protection for veterinary costs and associated lawsuits if an animal in your care is injured, lost or stolen.
If you offer additional services, such as grooming, you will need adjusted or additional coverage to address the related risks.
Property insurance is an essential part of your doggy daycare insurance program. Depending on the type of kennel you operate – from bare bones kennels to luxury suites – your property insurance needs will also vary. You need to protect your building (if you own it), equipment, furniture, inventory and any other property from fire, theft, vandalism and weather events. What’s more, you need business interruption insurance if a covered event forces you to temporarily stop taking in boarders in order to make repairs or replace damaged property.
Pet boarding businesses may qualify for a business owners policy, which will allow you to get the basic coverage you need (liability, property, business interruption) packaged together at an affordable price. You can add on any additional coverage or endorsements that you may need, including bailee’s coverage and professional liability coverage. Remember the importance of professional liability coverage; you don’t have to actually make a mistake in the feeding, care or grooming of an animal in order to be sued. Anyone can make a claim against you, and you will be forced to defend yourself.
If your pet boarding business transports animals to and from their homes, veterinary services or grooming services, you may also need commercial auto insurance. It protects your business-owned vehicles much like your personal auto insurance protects your personal vehicles. It provides liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage expenses related to auto accidents involving your vehicles and drivers.
Dog Walkers Insurance
Dog walkers perform a very special, fun, and valuable service for dog owners. What is more important for pet owners than making sure their furry friends get exercise and fresh air?
Unfortunately, being a dog walker is also fraught with danger for yourself, for the animals you take into your care and for the general public.
As you walk on public sidewalks or roadways, perhaps with multiple dogs at one time, what may seem like a daily routine can quickly go awry. You can encounter other people walking dogs or encounter squirrels, cars, cracks in the sidewalk and so much more. Dogs by nature are unpredictable, and if one gets loose and bites another person or another person’s dog or if the dog damages someone else’s yard or property, you can be held liable for the resulting costs.
You must protect your livelihood and the safety of the general public with appropriate public liability insurance, or general liability insurance. This is basic insurance protection that every pet services business should have.
Meanwhile, what happens if a dog that you have been charged with caring for is injured on your watch?
Dog walking insurance is meant to protect your clients’ dogs, the general public and your business from any number of adverse events that can occur. In addition to general liability insurance, be sure to consider the following types of dog walking insurance:
- Property insurance for your home office
- Bailee’s coverage for animals in your care, custody or control
A Note About Bonded Dog Walkers
Dog walkers and other pet services businesses often advertise themselves as “licensed, bonded, and insured.” What does this mean? First, you are likely required to have certain permits or licenses to operate in your state or municipality. Next, your insurance needs have been outlined in this article. Finally, what is a bond, and why would a dog walker need one?
A fidelity bond (or dishonesty bond) is an insurance product that protects you in the event that one of your employees is accused of theft or other dishonest acts. Typically, only dog walkers that have employees need this type of protection. But sole proprietors often obtain bonds simply for their clients’ peace of mind when they invite you into their homes. A surety bond can protect both you and your clients from the costs of a theft claim. It may also protect you if you are unable to complete the requirements of a contract.
Other Coverage for Pet Services Businesses
Pet services businesses may face additional risks other than those described above. For example, any groomer, boarder or walker who has employees will likely need workers’ compensation insurance to protect employees who are injured on the job. Your employees face all kinds of risks, from dealing with multiple, unpredictable pets, to slips, falls and repetitive motion injuries. This valuable insurance protection is required for most businesses that have employees and will keep you from being sued if an employee is injured while working for you.
You may also want to look into commercial umbrella insurance, or excess liability insurance. It provides an extra layer of liability protection above and beyond the limits of your CGL and certain other liability policies. It kicks in and provides coverage when those other applicable policies have been exhausted. If you are involved in a significant claim or lawsuit, this coverage can be the difference between staying in business and closing up shop for good.
Commercial auto insurance needs will vary among pet services businesses. If your business owns autos of any kind – even just one – you need commercial auto insurance. What’s more, if you or any employees drives personal vehicles for business purposes, you need nonowned auto liability coverage. Talk to your independent insurance agent about how vehicles and driving are involved in your day-to-day operations in order to obtain the best coverage for your needs.
Find Pet Services Insurance Tailored to Your Needs
Pet services businesses should not settle for one-size-fits-all insurance coverage to protect their livelihood. With business models and services that vary as much as the pets you work with, only comprehensive, tailored coverage can truly protect your financial well-being.
To find the best coverage, work with an independent insurance agent who knows about your unique needs. Independent agents can work with numerous insurance companies, giving you the opportunity to compare multiple quotes and choose the one that fits you best.