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As a pet care professional, you’re focused on providing the best care for your clients and their animals. Running a pet care business, however, comes with its fair share of liabilities and risks. From workplace injuries to client lawsuits, accidents can and do happen. Securing the right commercial insurance coverage can help protect your business in the event of the unexpected.
Pet Care Business Insurance Types
General liability insurance is important for any pet care business given the frequent interaction with customers. If a client is injured on your business property, or if you damage property at a client’s home, your business may be sued. Providing protection against third-party claims of bodily injury and property damage, general liability insurance can cover legal fees, settlements, judgements, and medical payments.
General liability insurance also provides coverage for product liability, protecting against claims of bodily injury and property damage as a result of products your business sells, produces, or manufactures. For animal hospitals, veterinarians, and pet stores that may sell a variety of products, this is an important coverage to secure.
- While walking a client’s German shepherd around the neighborhood, a car backfires and the dog is startled. You lose control of his leash, and the dog runs straight into a man carrying two large bags of groceries. The man falls over and his groceries spill out onto the street. The man suffers a broken wrist as he was bracing against the fall. Your general liability insurance would cover the injured man’s medical payments and any legal fees if he decides to sue.
Professional liability insurance, also called errors and omissions insurance, provides coverage against claims of negligence or failures in your professional work. A customer could sue your business for a variety of reasons, from a misdiagnosis that leads to the death of a pet to a mistake in scheduling a pet-sitting appointment.
Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, a client could still believe you did and sue you anyway. Professional liability insurance can provide tailored coverage to your pet care business, covering legal fees and damages resulting from lawsuits claiming mistakes or even perceived negligence in your work.
- A local dog breeder brings her prized show dog into your offices for veterinary treatment. You end up prescribing medication for the dog, but accidentally prescribe twice the dosage that is necessary. The dog ends up suffering severe heart failure and later dies. The owner sues your business for negligence. Professional liability insurance would provide coverage.
Bailee’s insurance covers your business for losses to customer property in your care, custody, or control. For pet care businesses, this coverage is sometimes called animal bailee coverage, and the property being covered typically refers to a customer’s pets.
For kennels, boarding facilities, animal hospitals, and other pet care businesses that regularly take care of customers’ pets, bailee’s coverage can provide the protection you need if a pet is lost, injured, or dies while in your custody. While some businesses may believe that having customers sign disclaimers or waiver forms can absolve themselves of liability, legally, these agreements often don’t hold water, underlying the importance of bailee’s coverage.
- You own an animal hospital, and a client’s cat that is undergoing surgery is being boarded at your facility. Overnight, a dog that is also being boarded ends up attacking the cat, causing severe injuries. The cat’s owner sues your business for damages. Bailee’s insurance would provide coverage.
If your business owns or leases vehicles in the business’s name, commercial auto insurance is important coverage to protect not only the value of your vehicles but also your business from liability if you or one of your employees is found to be at fault in a car crash. Commercial auto insurance can cover legal fees, medical expenses, and other damages.
If you or your employees use personal vehicles for business purposes, you may need hired and non-owned auto insurance, which can be purchased separately or as an endorsement to your commercial auto policy. It’s important to note that hired and non-owned auto coverage does not apply to commuting.
- You are on your way to a local farm to perform a routing checkup on a customer’s dairy cows. You take the company truck, and while on the highway, you become distracted and rear-end another vehicle. Your commercial auto insurance would cover the damages to the vehicles as well as any injuries the other driver suffers.
Workers’ compensation insurance provides medical and financial benefits to employees who suffer injuries or fall ill on the job. Required in almost every state, workers’ comp is an important coverage to secure, particularly for those businesses in the pet care industry, as working with live animals can be unpredictable. With workers’ comp, if an employee suffers an occupational injury, he would be provided with coverage for his medical expenses, a portion of lost income, and, in some states, rehabilitation and vocational training costs.
- While examining a horse at a local ranch, one of your veterinary employees is kicked in the chest by the horse. He suffers a few broken ribs and is unable to work for at least a few weeks. During his recovery, workers’ compensation insurance would provide for his medical expenses as well as a portion of his lost income.
Commercial crime insurance provides coverage for financial losses related to crimes such as theft, burglary, robbery, forgery, and fraud. Coverage can be applied to crimes committed by third parties as well as employees. For pet care businesses that keep medical equipment, medications, and other medical supplies on hand, crime exposure can be high. If your pet care business also deals in cash, employee theft can also be of concern.
- Your mobile pet grooming business accepts payments mostly in cash, and you store this cash in a lockbox on your work van. One day you find that an employee has stolen $5,000 from the lockbox. Commercial crime insurance would cover your losses.
Additional Insurance Coverage
There are a number of other commercial insurance types available to pet care businesses, depending on the exact details of your company and its risk profile. The following are a few additional coverages you may want to consider:
- Commercial property insurance protects the value of your business property, including buildings, equipment, computers, furniture, and more. If you rent or own a building, office space, or retail store, commercial property insurance is critical coverage. If your business property is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril, commercial property coverage can pay to replace or repair damaged property. Commonly covered perils include fire, storm, explosion, water damage, theft, and vandalism.
- Business income insurance, also called business interruption insurance, can provide coverage for loss of income and operating expenses if your business must temporarily shut down due to property damage. Commonly added to commercial property policies, business income insurance is an important coverage to secure if your business heavily relies on its commercial space.
- Equipment breakdown coverage can cover the repair or replacement of malfunctioned or damaged equipment and many of the costs associated with the breakdown of equipment, including spoiled inventory and losses to business income. Different from commercial property coverage, equipment breakdown insurance provides coverage for damage from internal forces—like a mechanical failure—rather than external events.
- Product liability insurance can protect your business from claims of injury or damage due to products that you sell, manufacture, or distribute. Risk of product claims can be especially high for pet stores and veterinarians that sell medication, supplements, or medical devices.
- Cyber liability insurance covers your business against first- and third-party losses caused by cyberattacks such as hacks, data breaches, denial of service attacks, and viruses. For pet care businesses that store client information, from credit card information to contact information, cyber liability insurance can help cover the costs of dealing with a data breach and addressing any related lawsuits.
Insurance Coverage for Your Employees
Part of protecting your business also means providing the right coverage for your employees. You can sponsor group insurance plans for your employees to provide financial protection in their time of need. A comprehensive employee insurance plan can also serve as a way to attract and retain top talent.
Group health insurance helps your employees pay for medical and healthcare expenditures, including everything from primary care to hospitalizations and surgeries. Offering health insurance to your employees can not only keep your employees in better health, but it can also help to retain your employees.
Group life insurance provides a financial payment to an employee’s family or other survivors if the employee unexpectedly dies. The death does not have to be work-related. Although individuals can purchase life insurance on their own, as an employer-sponsored group, you can usually obtain better rates than an employee could get on their own.
Group disability insurance provides income to employees who cannot work as a result of non-work-related injuries.
What pet care businesses need insurance?
Working in the pet care industry can open your business, employees, and clients up to a litany of risks and liabilities. For any business, small or large, it makes sense to have some form of coverage to protect against unexpected events or disasters that may simply be out of your control. If your business is involved in any of the following, you’ll likely want to consider exploring options for insurance coverage:
- You work with clients
- You take temporary custody or care of a client’s property
- Members of the public visit your business property
- You perform work for clients at client locations
- You own or lease company vehicles
- You drive a personal vehicle for work purposes
- You hire employees
- You own or rent commercial property
- Your business owns valuable property, such as medical equipment or computers
- Your business works with and stores medical supplies or medication
- You store confidential or sensitive data on clients, including personally identifiable information
- You sell products that have the potential to harm your clients
Commercial insurance can cover a wide variety of pet care businesses. Some common businesses and professions that need insurance include:
Choosing an Insurance Company
The first step in acquiring insurance for your pet care business is finding the right insurance company to partner with. Below, we’ve highlighted a few of our trusted insurance partners, who offer a variety of coverage suitable for pet care businesses. We’ve also included a few factors that are important for your business to consider when evaluating insurers.
|Provider||General Liability||Professional Liability||Business Owner's Policy|
Financial strength. While you may think getting the best-priced policy should be your main goal, it is more important to ensure you purchase insurance from a financially stable provider. It’s worth remembering that insurance claims are paid directly from the finances available to the insurance company. In other words, if the insurance provider is financially stable, they will be able to fulfill their claims commitment. When an insurance company does not have financial stability, it may collapse and be unable to support you.
While this is rare, it does happen. You want to know your company is always secure and certainly don’t want the surprise of finding out your insurance provider cannot cover your losses when you make a claim.
Of course, this leads to the obvious question: How do you know your insurance company has financial strength? Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just purchasing a policy from the biggest industry names because even giant insurers go through periods of financial instability. Luckily, there are rating agencies that grade insurance companies in terms of their financial strength. Some of the major rating agencies are Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, AM Best, and Moody’s.
Price. Cost is important for any business, but the price of insurance is not the only factor. Instead, your pet care business will be better served by looking for the policy that is the most affordable but also meets all your requirements.
Different insurers have different methods for determining the premium you will pay, although there are some industry standards. For insurance companies, pricing is all about determining how much risk your business presents. The key to finding the best deal that meets your company needs is to shop around. Speak to insurers, use online quote engines, and work with brokers to ensure you get the coverage you require to protect your business.
Customer service. While you want your insurance provider to be financially stable and priced competitively, it is also important that you can engage with the company. It is possible you will need to make a claim, change policy details, or update personal information. In these cases, you want to deal with a company that has good customer care. While most major carriers have good customer service records, some spend more time and effort on ensuring their customers are taken care of. This may seem unimportant, but dealing with welcoming, qualified, and thoughtful professionals will be vital during a claims process.
In the pet care industry, you have the great responsibility of caring for the health and well-being of your customers’ pets. It’s important to remember, however, that ensuring the health of your own business is also critical. With a comprehensive set of commercial insurance coverage, you can make sure that your business can survive any unexpected events or disasters. With the financial backing of a reputable insurer, you can secure peace of mind for yourself, your employees, and your customers.