The pet industry has experienced a lot of change. In the past, it was common for individuals and families to acquire a pet on impulse. Today, there is more planning involved in pet selection and care, and there are more pet services popping up as a result. People who go on vacation or are away from their homes for extended periods are finding that pet sitters can be a preferential alternative to kennels.
Pet Sitters in High Demand
Americans spend over $500 annually on each pet they own, 25 percent more than they spend on men and boys' clothes. That totals more than $50 billion for the nation as a whole.
Pet Sitters International (PSI) reports the following:
- Members conducted 18.5 million visits in 2010, up from 17.4 in 2007.
- PSI member revenues exceeded $325 million in 2010.
- 43 million households have dogs, while 38 million have children.
- 84% of PSI members carry liability and bonding insurance.
- 83% of pet sitting businesses are owned by women.
Who Needs Pet Sitting Insurance?
Pet sitters work with a number of business models today, which means the specific risks that concern you and those who hire you for pet sitting will be unique to your pet sitting business. Depending upon the way you have structured your business, you may offer any of the following:
- Dog walking
- Care and feeding of a number of different pets, including cats, dogs, fish, birds and reptiles
- Dog boarding or doggy day care in your own home
- Daily pet sitting in a client's home
- Live-in pet sitting at a client's home while the client is traveling
- Dog training
- Pet grooming
- Pet taxi service
- Home security and making the client's home appear "occupied"
The pet sitter insurance you choose should cover each of your risks so you aren't left with either a large vet bill on your hands or worse – a lawsuit – if something happens that results in harm to the pet and the client decides to sue.
Be sure to read your pet sitting insurance policy carefully and ensure that there are no exclusions that could leave you with coverage gaps. An independent agent is an excellent resource when it comes to finding specialized insurance, as these professionals can shop for coverage from more than one insurance company to help you find just the right policy for you.
Pet Sitters' Risks and Concerns
When you are seeking pet sitting insurance, you will want to consider the risks involved in your work to ensure that your policy will adequately cover you. Be sure to work with an agent who can tailor a policy to your needs and concerns, so that you know you are covered for the unexpected, and you have peace of mind.
Some scenarios to discuss with your agent include:
- Health and safety of the pets:
- What happens if you accidentally harm a pet, or a pet becomes ill under your care?
- What if a pet is stolen while in your care?
- What if you use a grooming product that causes the pet to develop a skin rash?
- If the pet needs to go to the vet while in your care, who pays?
- Care for the home:
- If you are both pet sitting and house sitting, what happens if something goes missing while the home is in your care?
- What if you accidentally cause a house fire?
- What happens if you accidentally break something valuable?
Discussing these and other concerns related to your specific pet sitting business with an agent can help to ensure that your policy meets your needs.
What Pet Sitter Insurance Covers
Good pet sitter insurance covers many of the areas that any other business insurance addresses. Any time a business owner takes on the care of another person's belongings, there is risk of loss.
Coverage solutions for pet sitters include:
- Pet sitter liability insurance: This coverage protects you against claims that you are at fault for injuries or property damage while working as a pet sitter. This typically includes lost keys, fire damage from negligence, and medical expenses for the pet in the event of injury.
- Care, custody, and control of pets: This coverage protects you specifically for accidents that may happen while pets are in your "care, custody and control," which is normally excluded from coverage. The limits here can range from $10,000 to $200,000 per occurrence.
- Pet transport: If you transport pets for others, you may need coverage for pet transport, sometimes called "pet taxi insurance."
There are many variables associated with pet sitting insurance and the companies that provide it. The cost of coverage also varies quite a bit. It is important to work with an independent agent who can present you with options and rates from more than one insurance company, so you can pick the coverage that is right for you.
Adding Bonds to Your Coverage
Pet sitting insurance and bonding go hand in hand. While insurance protects you from claims against you, bonds are a way to provide security to your clients.
Your clients may ask you if you are "bonded." This means that you have purchased a pet sitting bond. Such a bond will:
- Provide full compensation or a replacement item if you take anything from the client's home and the client can prove that you were responsible for the theft.
- Provide reassurance to the client that you are a person of integrity, and that you have no intention of taking anything from the home that does not belong to you.
Work with a local member agent in the Trusted Choice network for all of your pet sitting insurance and bonding needs.
Where to Find the Best Pet Sitter Insurance
As people in America increasingly acquire pets and are away from home more for work and travel, the demand for pet sitters is growing. Most pet sitters today are finding that their potential clients want their pet caretakers to carry some type of insurance. Pet sitter insurance signifies that you are serious about your business.
When you're researching the coverage you need, it's a good idea to check in a few reputable places. Insurance agents, lawyers, and financial planners are all good sources for information about coverage. You may also want to check with peers and colleagues that run pet sitting businesses to see what kind of coverage they use. When you do begin to collect quotes, find consumer reviews to make sure that your insurance company is reputable and pays claims quickly (consumer reports are typically available on the internet). Doing some legwork ahead of time will help you make sure you're not overpaying for coverage.