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What Insurance Agents Need to Know about Pet Services Businesses

Pet Medicine Is High-Stakes Work

63%
More than 63% of pet owners think of their pets as family members
65%
of veterinarians are associated with private clinical practices

Whether it’s a pug or a Pomeranian, a calico or Manx, pets are part of the family for most owners. The American Veterinary Medicine Association also reports that Americans own approximately 70 million dogs and 74 million cats. Add in our friends with feathers, fins, scales, and hooves, and it's easy to see why veterinary services are in high demand.

Considering the number of pets in need of attention, it’s little wonder that the AVMA’s 2013 US Veterinary Workforce Study found that the majority of vets work in private practice. And while veterinarians are careful to apply their skills with care, they will sometimes need Professional Liability Insurance to protect them from a passionate pet owner’s claims of malpractice.

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Important Insurance Policies for Pet Services

Working with animals places pet care business owners in the path of some unique hazards. For starters, animals can be unpredictable. Others are escape artists. And the emotional investment owners have in their furry and feathered friends raises the stakes if something should go awry while the animal is in your client's care. Add to that the property concerns - everything from a veterinarian's X-ray equipment to a dog groomer's clippers - and pet service professionals have plenty to worry about. Your client needs a variety of business insurance policies to ensure they are covered from potential losses.

Whether your client owns an equine training facility or walks dogs for a living, they need to prepared for the unexpected incidents that can devastate a small business. The policies below are key coverages for your pet service client:

General Liability Insurance

General Liability Insurance protects your client by paying the costs of third-party lawsuits - that is, a lawsuit brought by someone who doesn't work for your client. For example, if a customer claims your client allowed their pomeranian to overheat, General Liability would compensate them for the vet bills or legal fees if the customer decided to sue. If your client is a pet sitter, dog walker, or has some other pet service that requires them to travel for work, they'll be happy to know that GL Insurance can cover them at their workplace or their customer's location.

Property Insurance / Business Owner's Policy

Every type of pet service business has some sort of property that it relies on to operate. Cages, medicines, and examination or grooming tables only scratch the surface of the gear your client may need to protect. Property Insurance insures your client's equipment, inventory, and business space for loss or damage caused by fires, windstorms, or theft. Your client's business might also qualify for a Business Owner's Policy (BOP). This is a policy offered only to small businesses with a low risk profiles. It bundles General Liability and Property Insurance together at a reduced rate.

Professional Liability / Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance

Pet owners can be passionate about their animals, and that makes Errors and Omissions Insurance one of the most important policies your client can purchase. Sometimes called Professional Liability Insurance, E and O kicks in when your client's customer claims they suffered financial losses because of your client's substandard service. For example, a customer may allege your client's grooming work ruined their poodle's chance of winning at Westminster. E&O can cover your client's legal costs (up to their policy limits).

Workers' Compensation

Animals are wily, and that makes Workers' Compensation Insurance a necessary coverage for your pet service client. If your client's employee is kicked by horse during a training session, Workers' Comp will pay their medical expenses. It also covers the employee's lost wages when a work injury or illness keeps them from performing their duties. If the employee decides to sue, Workers' Compensation can cover your client's legal fees, too.

Commercial Auto / Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance

Dog walkers, pet sitters, and animal trainers may perform their services in their customers' homes, but they aren't they only pet professionals who need to travel for work. Groomers can own mobile spas, kennels might offer a drop-off service, and animal shelters often send employees to pick up abandoned animals. All of these scenarios require either Commercial Auto or Hired & Non-Owned Auto Insurance to protect the vehicles either owned by the business or that the business rents or leases.

Tips for Insuring Pet Care Professionals

Small-business owners always have an eye on the bottom line. You can help your client save money by suggesting..

Excluding themselves from Workers' Comp.

Some states let businesses exclude owners, partners, and officers from coverage.

Purchasing a Business Owner's Policy (BOP).

Many small-business owners save money on General Liability and Property Insurance by bundling them in a BOP. By combining the policies, your client can get basic coverage at a reduced rate.

If you want to get your client a good deal, be sure to compare the rates and coverage from multiple carriers.

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