Most all small businesses need liability insurance in one form or another, and professional dog trainers are no exception. Regardless of types of training you offer or whether you offer group or individual classes, you will always have liability exposures that you should consider protecting against.
So what are my exposures as a pet dog trainer? Great question! The answer all depends on what you do in your business. For example, if you offer basic obedience classes, your exposure may seem small, but if one of the puppies in your class jumps on another puppy or another person in a group class, you may end up with a bill for damages. Same is true if offering behavior modification classes for dogs with aggression or biting issues. If dog bites someone or another dog in a class, you may be presented with a bill for the damages. And if you offer boarding as well as training, consider the injuries to the dog(s) in your care, as well as damages they may inflict to others while in your care.
Therefore the one insurance policy all trainers should consider is a general liability insurance policy-preferably one designed for trainers-that includes care, custody or control coverage. General liability Insurance is a form of insurance which protects the insured client from claims arising out of bodily injury or property damage to a third party. This means that it protects those insured against claims which a third party might bring against them for bodily injury, property damage, personal or advertising injury, or medical payments. The following is a breakdown of each of the limits of liability common to a commercial general liability policy, along with examples of how they apply to a professional dog trainer. Please note these limits are pretty standard in the insurance industry, regardless of which insurance company you are insured with.
$2,000,000 General Aggregate Limit
$1,000,000 Products/Completed Operations
$1,000,000 Personal & Advertising Injury
$1,000,000 Each Occurrence
$100,000 Fire Legal Liability
$5,000 Medical Payments
The $2,000,000 General Aggregate is the total amount of coverage you have for the year for the third party claims. You could have two $1,000,000 claims before you run out of coverage.
The $1,000,000 Products/Completed Operations limit has two parts. The Products section is meant to cover a tangible product. As a trainer, your product is the service or training you offer. The second part is covering the service or "operation" you have rendered to your client when the job is complete. An example of a completed operations claim would be as follows: You are contracted to train and pet sit a dog for several days while family is on vacation. Unfortunately you got the weeks mixed up on your calendar and failed to show up. As a result the dog suffers from dehydration and chews up the clients furnishings. Since you failed to show you would be negligent and thereby responsible for the injuries to the pet and the contents of the home.
The $1,000,000 Personal & Advertising Injury limit covers personal injury or advertising injury you cause to another person or company. Some examples of personal injury are: false arrest, wrongful eviction, or written material that slanders a person or organization or violates a person's right of privacy. Examples of advertising injury would be oral or written publication of material that slanders a person or organization or discredits a person or organization's products or services. Although claims of this nature very rarely occur to a dog trainer, an example of a claim covered under this limit would be as follows: Trainer A comes up with an idea for a website advertising slogan that already belongs to trainer B. Although trainer A did not know that the website slogan was in existence, it confused a number of trainer B's clients, and subsequently hurt trainer B's reputation in the area. Trainer B brings suit against trainer A for damages.
The $1,000,000 Each Occurrence limit is the most applicable limit to a dog training business. It covers you for up to $1,000,000 (or the limit listed on your policy) for any occurrence (Bodily Injury or Property Damage to a third party) in which you are found to be legally obligated to pay (by an adjuster or a court of law). An example of a claim where this coverage applies: You are training a client's dog basic retrieving in a local park. The dog runs to fetch the ball you throw, and in a hurry to come back to you runs into a child who is running in another direction. The child subsequently falls to the ground and breaks his/her wrist. A second example would be as follows: A dog in your group class attacks another dog or dog owner in the class. And a third example: You are working with a dog with aggression issues in the client's backyard. The neighbor sees you outside and comes through the gate unannounced and is subsequently bitten. All of these are examples of claims have occurred to our insureds over the years! And in all, the injured party was entitled to compensation under the trainer's policy for their injuries. Please keep in mind that the insurance company does defend you (outside the limit listed) and is only obligated to pay those sums that you are legally obligated to pay.
The $100,000 Fire Legal Limit, sometimes known as tenant legal liability, covers you against fire damage or legal liability that arises out of the space you rent. For example, you rent out a small space in a strip shopping mall to hold your training classes. One of your employees is smoking a cigarette and fails to put it out properly, causing fire damage to the rented space. The building owner maintains insurance on the building, but your lease requires you to legally pay for damages. Your per occurrence limit will not cover you for damages to premises your rent or own, therefore this limit would be applicable to reimburse the building owner due to your negligence.
The $5,000 Medical Payments is a separate limit of liability used to pay small medical claims regardless of fault. An example of this would be if a one of your clients comes to your home for a class and brings along a relative to spectate. The relative trips and falls, (suffering a broken ankle), while walking over to a bench in your backyard. This claim would be paid out of the $5,000 medical payments limit. Should the relative then decide to file suit, then the claim would be covered under the each occurrence limit above.
Unfortunately, most general liability policies contain exclusions for personal property in the insured's care, custody or control. And for many types of businesses this would be okay; however, for the professional dog trainer, it is perhaps the biggest exposure of all. This is because dogs are considered personal property under the law. Without including this coverage under your general liability policy, you have no insurance for the dogs in your care! Fortunately there are insurance companies that will remove the exclusion by endorsement. In doing so, they provide coverage for personal property and animals in your care, custody or control and extend this coverage wherever you go to train, and at all points in between, even in your vehicle!
Again, this coverage is perhaps the most important aspect of a dog trainer's liability insurance. The reason for this is that these types of claims typically occur much more frequently than do dog bites to a third party. In fact, these types of claims account for 80% of the claims we see turned in each year. Although oftern these are small amounts, we have seen significant vet bills ranging from $2,500 up to $15,000 for dogs injured in the trainer's care. So be sure your liability policy includes this coverage.
Here is a sample list of some claims that have occurred in the last few months:
-During a training session a puppy was bitten on eyes by another larger dog in the class. Dog lost vision in both eyes. Total Paid $8,000
-While in the care of the trainer, a small dog was attacked by a larger dog also in the trainer's care. The small dog required surgery. Total Paid $7,588
-Trainer was holding clients small dog in her arms. Dog jumped to get away and broke its leg. Total Paid $3,114
-Trainer was at a local festival demonstating demo dog. The demo dog ran into the heel of a bystander causing him to fall and injure knee. Total Paid $10,462.
-Child was attending training class with her parents and approached another dog in group class. Child was bitten on the cheek. Total Paid $26,942
-Dog in training class ingested a tennis ball, which caused a blockage. Dog required surgery to remove. Total Paid $4,137
-Dog was running in agility class and tore its ACL. Total Paid $5,841
If you have questions or concerns about your insurance, please give me a call at 1-800-962-4611 or email at IACP@Business-Insurers.com.
David Pearsall, CIC
Business Insurers of the Carolinas