You’re probably aware of the insurance liability your dog represents to your homeowners or renters insurance. But what if you walk dogs for a living? Or better yet—hire someone to walk them.
Well, these questions have become more prevalent with the rise of Wag! Often described as the ‘Uber for dog walking,’ this app helps you find dog walkers on-demand.
But this new addition to the ‘on demand’ or ‘sharing economy’ has major insurance implications. Like Uber it’s a new company in a new industry, making the waters are quite murky when it comes to finding the proper insurance.
There are three big questions raised by Wag! and other dog walking services:
- Will you need different insurance depending on whether you’re a dog walker or an owner?
- Do homeowners or renters have to worry from an insurance standpoint if their dog bites someone or damages someone else’s property?
- What if something happens and the dog walker is potentially responsible for it? Can the renter/homeowner sue them?
We’ll answer these questions below.
Insurance Implications for Dog Owners
It’s well-known that dog owners are treated as a liability to homeowners insurance companies due to the risk of dog bites, which can incur significant medical and legal expenses. Because of this, homeowners insurance premiums for those who own dogs are higher than premiums for those who don’t, other things being equal.
And if you hire someone to walk your dog, you’ll need ample coverage as well.
Luckily, if you’re a client of Wag!, the company will provide you with insurance coverage automatically. This is beneficial if your dog were to bite someone else.
For example, say a Wag! walker walks your dog and it bites your neighbor. Or maybe it gets off its leash and damages a neighbor’s fence? You’d ordinarily be held responsible for this, without the coverage from Wag!.
Wag! insurance will cover the medical and property damage bills, as long as it doesn’t exceed their policy limits. But to be safe, many insurers advise you to purchase additional liability coverage under your homeowners policy. You also may want to purchase an umbrella policy.
An umbrella policy is extra liability protection that will cover your auto, boat, homeowners, and renters insurance needs. It provides extra bodily injury and property damage protection. It will also help to cover any legal expenses if the other party wants to bring the dog injury or property damage case to court.
Also keep in mind that Wag! insurance only covers you when your dog is in the hands of one of their employees. When the canine’s out of their care, it’s your responsibility.
Wag! insurance also won’t cover any ‘off leash’ activity. So if they get off the leash or you request them to be leash-free, your personal homeowners insurance or umbrella coverage will have to cover it. This is another great reason to make sure you have adequate coverage.
Nick Braun, founder of PetInsuranceQuotes.com, believes pet insurance is also an important facet of properly insuring your pet.
He says, “Dog owners should get pet health insurance to supplement any other plans. Pet insurance covers dogs for unexpected accidents and illnesses, which in today’s veterinary world, can cost $5,000 to $20,000 if a dog needs surgery or long-term treatment.”
Bottom line: there’s no reason a dog owner should dish out thousands of dollars on legal and medical bills, as long as they have ample insurance.
Insurance Implications for Dog Walkers
Although the Wag! website states, “All of our walkers have been background checked, Wag! certified & and rigorously screened/vetted,” accidents can still happen.
This is why Wag! guarantees that all employees are insured and bonded.
Braun says, “Dog walkers should get liability insurance in case the dogs they care for are hurt or cause an injury while in their custody.”
Also, depending on your state, contractors may or may not need to be bonded. With Wag! they must.
The act of being bonded is where one opens a pre-paid savings account with a bank or insurance company. Money is then set aside in case an incident occurs where you don’t complete a task correctly, or make a mistake. The money will then be paid to the dissatisfied client or your company, up to the balance of the account.
So hypothetically, if it’s the Wag! Walker’s fault that the dog hurts a passerby or damages their property, money will come out of this account.
And if the monetary value owed exceeds the bond amount, the walker may have to post a performance bond. You can speak with a Wag! representative for more information on this.
In addition to the insurance dog walkers receive, Braun believes “dog walking companies should have a standard business owners policy (BOP) and liability insurance in case the dogs they care for are hurt or cause an injury while in their custody.”
He says, “A company should also make sure their policy insures them against a dog that might attack an employee. Dog bite claims can exceed $50,000 in one incident.”
So whether or not you feel comfortable having a stranger walk your furry friend, just know there are plenty of background checks and insurance requirements for people employed as ‘on-demand’ dog walkers.