Working with animals is a great side hustle with the potential to turn into full-time work. According to Industry Canada, pet care businesses grossed over $450 million in 2020. While 80% of businesses were profitable, it’s no surprise if you’re interested in starting your own dog walking, pet sitting, or animal care venture.
Working with animals can be rewarding, and it can also be risky. If you’re running a pet care business and want to make sure you have the coverage you need, learn everything you need to know in this guide to dog walking and pet sitting insurance in Canada.
What is pet business insurance?
Even the most well-behaved animals can be unpredictable at times. Whether you’re boarding dogs, walking cats, or shampooing guinea pigs, there’s always the potential that something could go wrong. Animals can get hurt, hurt others, or cause property damage. And if it happens under your watch, you could be held responsible.
Pet business insurance helps cover your costs in case something goes wrong. Policies are available that cover you in the event you’re held liable by a client or third party, your business equipment is lost in a fire or flood, and even if you have to stop working because of an illness or injury.
What types of coverage do I need for my pet business?
When you’re running a pet business, there are several types of commercial insurance you should consider.
General liability insurance protects you in case you cause harm to someone or their property while running your business. For example, if an animal in your care were to bite someone, general liability insurance would cover your legal expenses and pay the amount awarded to the victim.
Animal bailee insurance protects you in case something happens to an animal under your care. For example, if you were walking a dog that was hit by a car, you could be held responsible for paying its veterinary bills. Bailee insurance would cover your financial responsibility to the dog’s owner.
Commercial property insurance protects you in case something happens to your business property. For example, if you ran a boarding kennel that was destroyed in a fire, commercial property insurance would pay to replace the equipment lost.
Commercial auto insurance may be required if you use your vehicle for business purposes. If you occasionally run to the pet store to pick up supplies, you probably don’t need commercial auto insurance. But if you purchased a cargo van to use for a mobile grooming service, you wouldn’t be covered by a personal car insurance policy.
Finally, business interruption insurance or disability insurance can help replace your income in case you’re unable to work because of an illness or injury – even if you’re injured outside of work. For example, if you’re running a dog walking business, disability insurance would still replace some of your income if you broke your leg in a skiing accident.
What types of pet business owners need insurance?
Any time you’re working with animals, there’s the potential for something to go wrong. Consider the following coverage based on the type of business you’re running:
If your pet care business is a side hustle
If you’re running a business on the side in addition to a full-time job, you’re most likely operating as a sole proprietor – meaning that there’s no legal separation between you as a person and the business you’re running. If someone were to sue you and win, you would have to pay them from your own resources.
Even if you’re walking dogs on the side, it’s a good idea to look into general liability insurance and animal bailee coverage to make sure you don’t risk losing your life savings if something goes wrong.
If you’re self-employed full time
When you’re making your full-time living from a pet business, things are a bit more serious. In addition to general liability and bailee coverage, you should consider business interruption insurance or disability insurance that will protect you in case you’re unable to work due to an illness or injury. Make sure to also look into coverage for any equipment you buy for your business.
If you’re running a pet business with a storefront or employees
If your pet business is getting big, it’s important to make sure you’re completely covered. A business this complex requires a more substantial liability policy, bailee’s coverage, and commercial property insurance to protect your inventory and equipment. Talk with your insurance broker about the ins and outs of your pet care business to make sure you’re not missing any important coverage.
Looking to insure your small business?
Do I need professional liability insurance for my dog walking and pet sitting business?
Professional liability insurance covers you in case one or more of your clients loses money because you made a mistake. This type of insurance is crucial for professionals like doctors, lawyers and accountants who carry a lot of responsibility for other people’s livelihoods.
You may need professional liability insurance if you offer veterinary services or working animals, but it’s likely unnecessary if you’re just boarding cats. Even if you don’t need it, you can ask to see if your general liability policy includes some professional liability coverage just in case.
How much does insurance cost for a pet business?
General liability insurance for small pet service businesses typically starts at around $300 per year ($25 per month) for a very basic policy with $ 1 million in coverage and access to legal advice – but this can change depending on your exact case. It’s important to compare insurance quotes online before buying a policy to ensure you’re getting the best deal on the coverage you need.
What factors affect my pet care business insurance quote?
The amount you pay for pet business insurance depends on a number of factors, including:
What coverage you need. If you just need a basic liability policy, you’ll pay much less than if you need additional coverage like property insurance.
What kinds of animals you work with. If your pet business extends to exotic animals, designated breeds like pit bulls, or large animals like horses, you can expect to pay more for insurance coverage.
How much experience you have. If you’ve been walking dogs for 10 years without incident, you’ll have access to better insurance rates than if you’re starting a brand-new business.
How much work you do. Just as the distance you drive is a factor in the cost of car insurance, the amount of work you do is a factor in the cost of your pet business insurance. The more your business does, the higher your exposure is.
Where you live and work. Insurance tends to cost more in densely populated areas than in rural parts of the country. Your rates can also be affected by whether you work out of your home or have an office or retail space.
Whether you have employees. When people other than yourself represent your business, there’s a much greater chance you’ll make a claim. Because of this, the number of people who work for you affects your insurance rates.
Your claims history. If you’ve had to make an insurance claim for your pet business in the past, your rates will go up.
The bottom line
Even a small accident can become an expensive problem for your pet business. Make sure you invest in the right types of insurance coverage so that you can focus on hanging out with your furry friends without worrying about what happens if there’s an accident.