Pet Business Insurance (and Why You Need It Now More Than Ever)
By Andy Gale
When first opening your pet care business, you probably planned for all imaginable challenges.
You likely outlined cleaning procedures to protect animal clients from disease outbreaks and invested in ongoing staff training to prevent conflict. You probably even created a pet care business plan to ensure adequate profit was made each month. As a responsible pet business owner, you planned for all foreseeable crises.
However, it’s undeniable that 2020 has been a record year for the unimaginable. No one could have predicted the global pandemic and its ensuing effects on public health and the economy alike.
As a pet care professional, your job now is to find ways to successfully (and safely) continue operations in an uncertain atmosphere. With that in mind, it might be time to revisit your pet care insurance plan to ensure you have adequate coverage in place for the worst-case scenario.
Considering that, we’re going to explore this type of insurance in light of this year’s challenges, and the additional precautions you can take to hopefully never have to actually use that coverage.
What Is Pet Business Insurance?
In pet care, the unpredictable is to be expected. After all, you’re caring for living guests that can’t speak to you—at least not in any documented language that you’re likely to understand. While you can and will take precautions, such as separating animals and ensuring all of your staff is trained to notice the signs of distress, you can’t prevent every single challenge with certainty.
This is where pet business insurance comes into play. Rather than general business insurance, pet business insurance was created with businesses just like yours in mind. As with other insurance types, the goal is to invest in coverage without ever needing to use it; however, the worst-case scenario—a global pandemic—is happening now. It’s time to dive into your insurance policy and ensure you have adequate coverage for any of the new challenges that may arise.
What Challenges Are Pet Care Businesses Currently Facing?
In addition to the public health crisis, there is also an ongoing economic downfall—one that’s impacting both pet care businesses and their clients alike.
The challenges confronting pet care businesses due to COVID-19 include (but aren’t limited to):
• Client and Pet Safety. While the effects of COVID-19 on humans is observable, there are a variety of confusing accounts surrounding how the virus can impact their animal counterparts. This can make clients nervous to trust their animals in the care of your pet care business. Thankfully, the consensus as of writing is that animals are significantly less susceptible to the virus, but it’s still important to create the safest environment possible for clients and their pets alike.
• Staff Safety. During COVID-19, it’s recommended that people residing in different households avoid in-person interaction. So unless all of your staff members live under one roof (along with your clients), this can be challenging to accomplish! To combat this, make sure you establish clear social-distancing protocols to ensure your staff members are kept safe.
• Loss of Business. Whether due to client apprehension, decreased staffing or mandatory closures (with “essential business” qualifications applied differently to pet care businesses depending on the state), there’s a decent chance you’ve experienced a loss of business due to COVID-19. While the pandemic won’t last indefinitely, it can be a challenge to cover expenses and come out successfully on the other side of the crisis.
What Types Of Pet Business Insurance Should You Consider?
There are a few types of insurance coverage that your business should consider. This includes general business coverage and pet business-specific coverage. After all, just as you might encourage pet owners to invest in pet insurance, you should have animal service-specific coverage as well.
Pet Care-Specific Coverage Options:
Animal Floater/Bailee. This type of coverage is for if an animal dies while in your care. Ensure you’re covered by Animal Floater/Bailee insurance for the absolute worst-case scenario.
Lost Key. If your business is making more “house-calls” and providing walking services out of clients’ homes to abstain from your business’s premises, Lost Key insurance is essential. This covers your business in the event that an employee misplaces a client’s key when providing services in their household.
Basic Business Coverage Options:
Commercial Liability. Commercial Liability insurance covers conflict that may arise due to the general operations of your business, such as a client slipping on spilled water and getting injured. If a client contracts COVID-19 on your premises, there’s a chance that a lawsuit would follow. In that instance, Commercial Liability insurance covers the suit and resulting damages.
Worker’s Compensation. Your business probably has Worker’s Compensation insurance, so the tip here isn’t to invest in it now. However, you should investigate the Worker’s Compensation policies in your state, as some areas have dictated that this coverage will be expanded to cover if COVID-19 is contracted on the job.
Business Interruption. This is coverage for moments where the continuing of business is impossible. While some policies exclude virus-related business continuity challenges, it’s still worthwhile to look into whether your specific policy does so.
If you work with an insurance provider that specializes in pet care in particular, you may be able to access these types of insurance within one comprehensive policy.
What Steps Can You Take To Avoid Using Insurance?
While you must invest in pet business insurance, the goal is to never actually need the coverage it provides. There are a few precautionary steps you can take to give your business and its employees the best chance of avoiding a crisis.
First, training your employees on the new pandemic-specific safety measures is key. You likely train employees in confident dog-handling best practices to prevent injuries on behalf of the dog and your staff alike. Even further, you likely hire dog behavior experts and even require regular renewal of training.
Approach pandemic training with the same vigor—your staff should be trained clearly on how to maintain safe social distancing across the business. When your staff is trained, you can operate with confidence and convey that to clients.
Another impactful precaution you should take is investing in pet care business software. Here are a few ways that software will optimize and help you maintain safe operations:
Simplifying Scheduling. Some businesses are scheduling the same employees to work on the same days to decrease exposure to new people. However, even if you’re not doing that, pet care software can give a comprehensive overview of how many employees and guests will be in the building at any time, ensuring you’re not over-scheduling to the point that distancing is impossible.
Providing Updates to Clients. With the goal of interacting with clients face-to-face as little as possible, pet care software can fill in the gaps in communication. You can send digital “report cards” and updates to clients after they pick up their pets in a socially-distant manner.
Live Streaming. In a similar vein to providing updates, some pet care software solutions integrate directly with live streaming services. With this, you can show clients that their pets are safe and happy in your care, without their human counterparts actually stepping foot in your facility.
Facilitating Digital Payments. Pet care software can facilitate digital payments, allowing clients to check out in a touch-free manner. You can also offer multi-stay packages to simplify the payment process even further.
Sharing Waivers. While you may have pet care clients sign waivers prior to leaving their pets in your care (for example, specifying that you’re able to provide basic medical care if needed), some businesses are choosing to provide COVID-19-specific waivers. You may choose to host this waiver on your website, or you could use your software to share and store them digitally.
While pet business insurance is essential, it’s also important to take precautionary measures beforehand. With these tips, you’ll create a safer work environment and instill confidence in your staff and clients alike.
When disaster strikes—whether a dog fight or a global pandemic—pet business insurance can help you roll with the punches. Begin by revisiting your insurance plan to ensure you have adequate coverage. And, with additional precautions, you’ll be well-positioned to never actually require using the coverage.
Andy Gale is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Gingr, a leading software provider for pet boarding and dog daycare companies. Previously, Gale worked as the National Sales Manager for Sustainable Materials, specializing in the sale of sustainable interior design products. Holding an MBA in Sustainable Business and a previous self-service business owner himself, Gale brought his knowledge of sales and sales management to Gingr. Now, he helps pet care business owners understand the value of intuitive software in daily management, as well as partners with other pet care industry leaders to support business owners in the field. www.gingrapp.com.