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Risk Insights: Professional Pet Care

For some, dogs and cats are four-legged members of the family. However, sometimes professional and personal responsibilities make it difficult for owners to nurture and care for their pets. Because of these deep emotional bonds, owners expect that whoever is entrusted with their pet’s care is adequately qualified and responsible. It is therefore important that, as a pet care provider (eg a dog walker, pet sitter or pet taxi driver), you and your staff are knowledgeable, well-trained and thoroughly covered with the proper insurance to effectively handle any potential risks.

Pet Care Responsibilities

Depending on pet care providers’ level of experience and training, they offer a wide range of services based upon pet owners’ specific needs. To ensure that your employees possess a broad skill set and are capable of responsible pet care, make sure that they and your business have the following:

  • Membership in a national organisation: Regardless of whether you are a full- or part-time pet care provider, consider joining an organisation such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers. Joining a national organisation lends credibility to your business, provides you with access to educational resources and guidance, and may make it easier to purchase pet sitting or dog walking cover.
  • Dog walking and park licences: If you are a pet care provider within the city of London, you may need to apply for a dog walking licence if you walk more than three dogs at once—check with your borough council to be sure. Additionally, you will need a separate licence if you walk dogs through any of the city’s eight Royal Parks. If you do not live within the city of London, contact your local council to ascertain whether you will need any special licences to walk a group of dogs.
  • Boarding licence: As a pet care provider, you may offer owners the option to board their pets while they are away on holiday. Regardless of whether you are boarding animals within your own home or a separate building, you will need to apply for an animal boarding establishment licence through your local council. As part of the process, the council may inspect the premises to ensure that the animals have suitable accommodation.
  • Pet first-aid licence: No matter how experienced you may be, there is always the possibility that one of the animals you are responsible for will be injured. To ensure that you are prepared for such an event, earn a certification in pet first aid. Generally, these courses provide information on when to take an animal to the vet, how an animal expresses pain or discomfort, dog CPR, symptoms of common ailments and general first-aid skills. Retake the course annually. 
  • Dog behaviour and pet care training: Animals—like people—have their own unique personalities, and, sometimes, when you introduce them to one another, their temperaments may not agree. Therefore, it is important that you receive comprehensive training on dog behaviour and pet care. These courses teach skills such as grooming, pack management, handling an aggressive and potentially dangerous dog, training techniques, and safely transporting pets in a vehicle.

The Risks of Pet Care

Animals can be independent and unpredictable, which could expose them, you and those around you to hazardous risks. While this is not a comprehensive list, here are some common risks associated with pet care:

  • Losing the owner’s keys
  • Damaging the owner’s home or property
  • Losing or injuring the animal
  • The animal injuring someone else
  • Spreading or contracting an infection

Mitigating Your Business’ Risks

While the potential risks associated with pet care can be severe, there are several simple methods you can use to mitigate those risks. Rely on these risk management strategies to protect your business:

  • Comprehensive dog walking contracts: Before caring for people’s pets, have them sign a contract which summarises your policies and how your business operates. Contracts should generally include the following information:
    • Types of services you will provide
    • Rates and payment terms
    • The pet’s behaviour, medications, routines and temperament
    • Cancellation and extension policy
    • Disclaimer outlining what you are not responsible for
  • Risk management schemes: Even when completing a routine task, an animal’s potentially unpredictable behaviour could expose the animal, you and those around you to hazardous risks. To mitigate any potential harm, develop a detailed risk management scheme. The scheme should outline the potential risks associated with each type of task for both dogs and cats. Periodically, evaluate and alter the scheme to accommodate new tasks or new methods of completing a task.
  • Comprehensive training: Pet care providers are expected to complete a variety of tasks to meet the needs of owners and their pets, and thus should receive comprehensive training.
  • Robust insurance: Purchasing the right form of cover can provide you with essential liability protection. The two common types of cover for a pet care provider are dog walking and pet sitter insurance. Both generally provide you with:
    • Employer’s and public liability
    • Professional indemnity
    • Custodial responsibility
    • Property damage
    • Goods in transit
    • Loss or theft of keys
    • Care of animals, which includes:
    • Veterinary fees
    • Death of an animal
    • Loss by theft or straying
    • Advertising and reward
    • Animals in transit

Protecting People’s Four-legged Family

Pets are commonly seen as cherished members of the family. As a pet care provider, you are responsible for their health and safety while in your care.

With the proper risk management practices, you can ensure the safety of your animals and the success of your business. For more information on managing your pet care business’ risk, contact Business Insurance Service today.

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For more information and for insurance solutions to protect your pet care business, contact Business Insurance Service today.

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