3 Ways to Protect Your Pet Service Business
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3 Things Pet Service Professionals Should Know Before Buying Insurance
As a pet service professional, you know that your industry’s business can vary widely in
Pet service professionals are a peculiar breed—they come in so many shapes and sizes it can be difficult to understand what kind of coverage—and how much coverage—you need. Whether you run a dog sitting business out of your basement or a large horse training facility, you’re often responsible for protecting more than yourself—you also have to think about the pets!
As you know, emotions run high when pets are involved, and pet owners often demand the best for their furry and feathered friends. That’s why you strive to provide the best services possible. But the unexpected does happen—and that’s when your business insurance plan takes over.
Insureon understands not only the inherent risks of running a startup or small business, but also the unique set of challenges faced by pet service professionals and the insurance products that can protect them.
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No two pet service businesses are the same, so don't settle for cookie-cutter coverage. Read on to learn more about your customizable insurance options.
General Liability Insurance for Pet Service Professionals
A General Liability Policy helps protect your pet service business by paying for the legal costs associated with third-party claims of property damage or bodily harm. This type of claim will come from someone, like a client, who suspects you or an employee of wrongdoing. For example, if a client's dog broke its leg while you were walking it, you might be facing a costly General Liability lawsuit.
One great thing about General Liability Insurance is that it protects you whether you are at your workspace or a client's. This is particularly beneficial to all you pet service providers—like mobile groomers, pet sitters, and pet walkers—who often travel for work.
General Liability Insurance is the framework for any solid business insurance plan, but they don't cover everything. For instance, while it can help pay for damages to someone else's property, it can't pay for damages done to your own.
Property Insurance for Pet Service Providers
If you're a pet service provider, it's unlikely that you'll be able to do your job without your workspace and/or equipment. That's why Property Insurance is an integral part of your small-business insurance plan—it helps your shop or facility stay up and running in the event of property loss or damage.
Property Insurance can help you pay for the replacement or repair of property that was lost or damaged due to common incidents like fire, theft, and wind storms. But if you live in an area prone to certain natural disasters—like floods or earthquakes—you may want to ask your insurance agent to add special coverage to your Property Insurance plan.
Depending on the needs of your business, you can choose coverage that reimburses you for the full price of your lost or damaged items or for their depreciated value. An insureon agent will know which option makes sense for your pet service business.
Business Owner's Policies for Pet Service Professionals
As a pet service provider, you probably have a lower level of risk than a lot of other professions, which will often qualify you for a Business Owner's Policy, or a BOP. A BOP is a special, discounted policy that combines the coverages found in standard General Liability and Property Insurance policies.
This means you'll be protected from General Liability claims (third-party property damage and bodily harm) and Property Insurance claims (damage and loss) for one low monthly premium. In addition, most pet service professionals qualify to add a bailee rider to this policy for protection in the event that an animal gets sick or dies in your care.
Ask an insureon agent if your pet service business is eligible to apply for a Business Owner's Policy.
Commercial Auto or Hired and Non-Owned Auto Insurance for Pet Service Professionals
If you often drive on work-related errands, or to clients' houses, Commercial Auto Insurance is a no-brainer. This type of coverage can help pay for the associated costs of medical care, vehicle repair, and legal fees due to an accident on the road.
Commercial Auto Insurance can cover any type of vehicle that transports products, employees, clients, or pets during the course of your workday, including passage cars, company vans, pickup trucks, and trailers. It's important to note that Commercial Auto Insurance does not cover the commute to and from work.
Some pet service professionals may opt to carry a Hired and Non-Owned Auto policy, especially if you often drive vehicles that your business doesn't own or that aren't registered in your name. Hired Auto Insurance provides coverage for rented vehicles.
Workers' Compensation Insurance for Pet Service Professionals
Workers' Compensation Insurance helps pet service business owners pay for the medical expenses and at least some of the lost wages of employees who are injured on the job or suffer from a work-related illness. It's important for pet service professionals to keep in mind that when working with pets—particularly scared, sick, or injured pets—you never know what might happen, and accident do arise.
If you are your only employee, you might think that Workers' Compensation Insurance is not the right fit for your business insurance plan. But Workers' Comp is regulated by state laws, and depending on where you live, you may be required to carry coverage, even if you are a sole proprietor.
Errors & Omissions Insurance for Pet Service Professionals
Errors & Omissions Insurance is one of the most affordable policies that pet service professionals can buy. This type of coverage protects your business in the event that a professional mistake or oversight ends up causing someone a financial loss. For example: if, while grooming a poodle, you accidently nick the dog and it needs veterinary care, the pet owner could accuse you of professional negligence and take you to court.
It's important for pet service providers to remember that you don't actually have to make a mistake to be accused of one. You Errors and Omissions coverage will protect you from such unfounded claims, even if they are thrown out in court—you will still have to pay for your legal defense, after all.
Umbrella Insurance for Pet Service Professionals
Umbrella Insurance isn't just a policy for big corporations—even the smallest of dog walking operations has the potential to incur a claim that exceeds the limits of one of its primary policies. And that's where Umbrella Insurance comes in—it can boost the limits of policies across your business insurance plan.
Umbrella Insurance is usually more affordable than most pet care providers think. For only a few hundred dollars each year, you can add hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of coverage to your business insurance plan.
It's important to note that an Umbrella policy can boost most coverages, but not all. For example, the limits of your Errors and Omissions policy cannot be increased by an Umbrella Insurance policy.
Properly train and certify all your employees.
Some pet service professionals are required by state or local laws to have certain kinds of training, and some don’t. But even those services—like pet walking or sitting—that don’t require formal training can benefit from extra certification and a continuing education. For one, clients will feel more comfortable leaving their beloved pet in your care when you and your employees have taken the time to get extra experience and training. Second, a little education can go a long way in terms of preventing Professional Liability claims.
Keep detailed records (and use contracts).
No matter how small your business, it’s important to keep detailed records and use clear, explicit contracts with each and every client. If you do this, you will have all the documentation you need to help your lawyer defend you in court, should a claim arise.
Your records should include identifying information for each pet, including a veterinary history, diet and exercise guidelines, and emergency contact numbers. If you run an obedience school or training facility, you may also what to keep records of each pet’s progress.
Your contracts should clearly outline your services, rates, payment options, and veterinary contingencies. A trusting handshake is great, but it can’t hold a candle to a legal, binding contract in court.
Manage Client Expectations
When you’re an expert pet service professional and your client is not, there is always room for, shall we say, subjectivity where quality and competence are concerned. Pet owners often believe they know what’s best for their pet, or that their pet is capable of anything, but experienced animal trainers will tell you that this (ahem) isn’t always the case.
But clients who feel they are getting the short end of the stick are in prime position to make liability claims against your pet service business. That’s why it’s so important to maintain good customer relationships by educating your clients, keeping promises, and communicating honestly as soon as a problem arises.