Pet care business insurance: finding and understanding a policy for your dog daycare and boarding business.

This is not an ad. We don't sell insurance. I have bought insurance for my business, so I know it can be confusing and intimidation. Mainly, you just want to 'get it done', even if you don't understand what you are getting.

A respectable insurance company should help you fully understand what you are buying, and what you are not buying.  What's covered? What's not?

Most general Business Owner's Policies will cover:

  • General Liability
  • Commercial Property
  • Business Income

Here, you're buying the same kind of insurance that any other business may carry.

General liability coverage may help protect you from certain lawsuits alleging injuries or property damage that occurred as the result of your business operations – like injuries to your clients that may happen on location or damage to a customer’s property while you or your staff are training their pet at the customer’s home. Business liability does not cover liabilities directly arising out of the professional pet services you may provide.

Commercial property coverage protects your equipment and other real assets (buildings, etc) from loss resulting from fire, theft and other events.

Loss of income covers loss of business income if you can't run your business due to a loss of property that's covered above.

Importantly, understand not just the premiums, but what's covered and what are the limits of the coverage.

professional liability insurance

The above coverages do not necessarily cover liabilities directly related to the professional services you provide, however. Say, for example, a pet is injured during a scuffle between dogs at your dog daycare.  If the owner decides you need to pay for the vet bills, you are not covered in the above policies.

This is where specialized pet care insurance applies. Often known as 'Professional Liability Insurance', this insurance applies specifically to the professional services you provide, including dog daycare and boarding services, grooming, training, and off-site services such as walking/sitting.  Professional liability insurance should help cover your expenses and defense in any lawsuit.


Risk Management as part of the insurance 'package'

When I carried insurance for my business, the carrier provided not just insurance, but risk-management tools to help reduce the chance of events causing losses and the resulting risk of a lawsuit.  This was invaluable win-win for my business, the insurance provider, and in many ways my customers.

For example, my insurance carrier provided me with the liability-release/waiver language appropriate for the laws of the state I was operating in. Each customer had to have ample time to review the document, and then sign it prior to engaging in my business' services.

The carrier also provided me with risk management tools, protocols (like incident forms) and an annual risk-management audit form.  While this at times seemed intrusive, it helped me 'raise the bar' on my risk management, reduced the chance and significance of incidents, and ultimately helped keep my insurance premiums lower, as all parties in our insurance pool are practicing the same risk management strategies.

Any good industry-specific insurance provider should support you with these tools in addition to the financial coverage of the policy. It's good for you, and it's good for the insurance company.


How to find appropriate insurance for your pet care business

There are many insurance providers out there. Find a provider who already has other dog daycare and kennel business customers, so they understand your business and the industry better. This applies especially to professional liability insurance - the underwriters must understand your business and expressly cover the professional services you and your staff (and contractors) provide. You are then also in a pool of other similar businesses, which ideally are supported with risk-management tools by the insurance carrier.

Ask other operators, and check with the pet care professional organizations like IBPSA for referrals to good insurance carriers familiar with the industry.

That, and it may help to know an insurance broker...