Starting a dog-walking business sounds uncomplicated, but like any business owner, you should have liability insurance in place before you begin offering your services. Insurance protects you and your assets, as well as your customers, and it will give them peace of mind knowing that you have insurance to cover injuries or other issues that might come up. Even if you go to great lengths to take precautions, the unexpected can happen, and that is exactly what insurance is for.
Contact the insurance agent who carries your homeowners, automobile or any other type of insurance. Though your insurance agent may not be informed about dog walkers liability insurance, he should be able to find a selection of different providers and be able to give you quotes from each.
Join a pet sitters or dog walkers association as an alternative to contacting an insurance agent. Review the benefits and fees associated with each one before deciding which to join. Don’t be deterred by the “Pet Sitters” title when you look for a professional organization to join. Such a group also offers insurance that will give you the coverage you need as a dog walker.
Compare the various options you get from your insurance agent or the association you join and select the one that is most affordable and fits best with your business needs. Take into consideration how many (if any) employees you have, liability limits, and what type/how much medical coverage is available.
Fill out the insurance application, either with your insurance agent or online if you are going through an association. Be prepared with information such as your gross income -- you may have to estimate this if you are just starting out -- and whether you’ll need coverage for things such as grooming, pet care in your home and house sitting, as these would affect the premium amount.
Submit the application, along with any other required documentation, which may include proof of association membership or any bonds that you already have in place. If you are applying through your insurance agent, the agent will submit the application for you.
Find out about bonding requirements in your state and talk with your insurance agent or association about becoming bonded. In simple terms, a bond is an additional insurance policy that backs up your reputation. If you're bonded, your clients are assured that you are trustworthy and will not deal with them in a fraudulent manner; if you do, there is a bond in place that will reimburse the clients. Bonding may be a state requirement or an insurance requirement and will incur an additional charge.
Typical insurance policies for dog walkers and pet sitters have liability limits of $2 million, limited to $1 million for each occurrence. These basic policies also include about $5,000 in medical expenses, $1 million for personal injury and $10,000 for the animal custodian (you or an employee). If you’re just starting out and have no employees, you might want to go with basic, minimum coverage, but there are add-ons for coverage of theft, temporary help (employees you pay less than $600 a year) and veterinary coverage for animals when the client refuses to reimburse you. Adding additional coverage will raise your premium. You can explore various deductibles to help keep your insurance expenses down.
The Internet is a good resource to find pet sitting/dog walking associations. If you decide to join an association, don’t just go with the first one you find. Compare them all and take into consideration the membership cost, the benefits offered and whether you can obtain references or testimonials to help you make a choice.
- Riley Yates, Insurance Specialist; Conquest Insurance Agency; Blackfoot, Idaho
- Professional United Pet Sitters LLC
- walking the dogs image by Kevin Chesson from Fotolia.com