Rover and Dogvacay do a great job at providing basic, broad insurance to their independent contractors, but is that enough? The answer to this question will vary with every pet sitter, but generally speaking, the answer is no.
Most pet sitters like to be covered if something were to happen at the meet and greet, while on a walk with a dog and they were attacked by another dog, or simply put, if they hurt themselves… These types of situations generally are not covered by the liability insurance provided to the members of these sites. However, their own pets in their own home are covered, which is something that is above and beyond a typical industry standard.
In order to make sense of what pet sitters, dog sitter, dog walkers, and pet boarders really need to know about their policies, I invited David Pearsall of Business Insurers of the Carolina’s on to help breakdown what we need to know and what to look for:
NOTE: This is not a recommendation. Always consult your insurance agent, or David, or support at Rover or Dogvacay to get the expert opinion for your situation. 🙂
*Rover has declined to be interviewed or join a pannel.
The full transcript can be found below. If there are any spots that you have questions about, feel free to search and listen to the actual video to understand the context.
Bella: Welcome everybody, my name is Bella Vasta from Jump Consulting and today, we are going to blow the lead off of everything insurance, if you are a pet sitter, just starting out and listed on one of those popular online places. Today, I have with me, someone that you should get to know pretty well if you don’t know already. His name is David Pearsall and he is from business insurance of the Carolinas.
David, thank you for taking some time out to be here with me today.
David: sure thing, look forward to it. Thanks Bella.
Bella: yeah, so I have found myself amongst an exciting group of pet sitters that are starting as shared economy starts exploding and they are the pet sitters that are listed on a lot of these popular apps and websites, it is the sign up, put your name here and get some clients and start boarding dogs in your home or being a dog walker or pet sitter and gosh, it reminds me when I first started, David. I actually wrote a blog post and I believed that we all were one of these pet sitters when we first started, so to speak. We just didn’t have the organization online to do it with, right?
David: yeah, it’s amazing, what’s come out today.
Bella: and when I started, it was maybe little easier for me because I always just knew that I need to be insured and at the time, went to a national organization and I thought I can only be insured through a national organization, which we all now know isn’t necessarily true but you do get some benefits by going that way.
And so, I just wanted to have you on today, to kind of set the record straight, I want you to talk to me as if I am someone on one of those popular apps and tell me what I really need to know, is it enough, you know, I have been told that I am insured, so is that all it is? I mean do I need to look for anything in particular, even as a new pet sitter starting out, what is business insurance like give me the 101 I guess.
David: okay, certainly. The business liability insurance, everybody should have, you know? If you are going out and you are pet sitting for somebody or you are boarding into your own home, you still need liability insurance. And understand that both these organizations, they are all of the above are offering insurance through their sites and you know, the key is to understand what you have and request a copy of your policy, if they’ll give it to you and if they won’t give it to you, should ask why. Because, really, if you are the one insured under that policy, you ought to be able to get a copy of it.
Bella: and by getting a copy of it, what kind of things are we looking at? You know, okay, so business liability that means if I break something, I am covered, right or wrong? It is a lot more, , right?
David: it is a good question, liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage to a third party, generally and that could be, a third party could be someone that’s out on a walk, that has nothing to do with you, just comes up and tries to pet a dog that you are walking and gets bit or, it could be bigger clients or it could be any property damage to the client’s home. Typically, will not cover your home because that’s the first party coverage. So typically, there is really no way to cover your home because the home owners insurance will typically exclude business liability. So if you are boarding in your home, there really is no way to cover your personal property there. So the liability is going to cover others, third party or your clients, it is going to cover the pets of the third party, you want to look for some care custody, control coverage that’s what we termed it when we first started but there’s also forums out on the market today called Animal Friendly and Pet Groomers Professionals and under those forms, they also give you some coverage for the animals in your care. It is not quite the same but that’s what you need to look for. You need to make sure, you have a liability policy, one main dollar limits recommended and they make sure you have coverage for care custody or control because that’s the pets in your care and that’s usually the property in your care.
Bella: okay, that’s really good. So custody, care and control helps cover the pets in my control. Sounds very funny, I want to get this in just because this is the beginning of our interview and I know a lot of people kind of start and they then click away and I remember when I first started, I thought, oh! Business liability insurance, that sounds really like scary and sketchy and expensive. But I kind of have looked at some of these sites and it seems as though, if I ever needed to call upon the insurance on these sites, I have to pay if they allow me access to the insurance which that needs to be talked about too.
I have to pay either $250 deductible or $500 deductible, so that means I have to pay that money before they even kick in any kind of coverage for me. Now, just using good thought here, David, how much could a pet sitter get a decent policy for?
David: that’s a good question and your definition of decent is a big question too because there are lot of policies being sold out there through random websites, through insurance agents all across the country. Some I have seen is as low as $129. How they are offering that price, I don’t know. That’s when you need to question what the policy covers and that’s why you need to go through with it with a licensed agent to understand what you are getting. Because not all policies are the same and you know, that’s what we look at is we try to offer the broadest form possible through our association plans, we also work with large insurance companies like CNA and Travelers, I read a lot of coverage forms.
Bella: you sure do,
David: that seem to be quite the same because even for one insurance company to the next, they may use the same primary insurance agreement but it is the endorsements they attach behind it, that could change our limit coverage. Then the question comes up with the deductibles and that’s what I think you are referring to when you save the $100 or $500 to use it but that’s common in any policy like most you know, under our association plans, we offer a $100 deductible for any claim. We have some insurance where we offer 0 deductible when it comes to a liability such as a dog bite but then they offer $500 deductible or if anything happens to the animal in your custody control or … deductible. Just like your auto insurance or your home loan insurance, you are going to have deductibles pretty much anywhere you go. You just need to look and see how much you can take and what can you take on. Usually you can take on a higher deductible if you can afford to do so, if it makes the most sense but if you are living on a limited budget, you need to take that into consideration. You need say, well if I am going to be okay if somebody gets hurt or if injury happens, if I am going to be able to do, call forth for $100 or 250 or 500 etc. to make sure I can get my client covered.
Bella: I kind of feel like if I have to pay $500 deductible, I would rather pay $500 deductible knowing that it was my policy and then it covered a lot of like everything I needed, then I have to pay $500, go through someone else, try to make sure it covers me and then realize that I need to buy my own policy when I kind of could put the money towards my own policy, is that the right kind of thinking?
David: well, I agree with you. I think you should, I think everybody should have their own coverage policy or if they have a master policy, at least a certificate of coverage that shows what they have and preferably a copy of the master policy, that shows what they have. Because you are entitled to it and if you are insured, you are entitled to see the coverage form that covers you and if someone limits you to that, I would probably go elsewhere as far as getting my insurance. So those are the things you have to consider going into this since you are in business. I personally would want to have my own policy. I personally would recommend that everybody have a policy on their own.
Bella: I always say, I have never, not met a pet sitting business owner, who is not a control freak. So if you are a control freak out there and you want to know everything or at least, know what you are covered for, sometimes having your own policy is the best. I personally, I have my own policy.
What else do you think is important if I am just a new pet sitter, starting out, knowing about business insurance liability and trying to figure out like what’s best for me and we touched on the $129 policy, what kind of things should I look for to see if that actually is or is not for me?
David: okay, well, some of the things you want to look for in a policy are, is the policy primary or is it access over any other policy that’s out there that you may haven’t play. I have been reading a lot of coverage forms you know, over the last few years and you will find some that will say, we will not cover a dog bite unless there’s absolutely no other policy that will cover you. That seems to be like …. policies which are, you know, there are policies that are put together by a group of investors that decides where we are going to give this a shot and this is what we want to cover and what we don’t want to cover. And so, they can be very limiting in nature. You also have to look at how much they are giving you for animal Bailee or care custody or control.
You also want to look at the limit they are giving you for property if you are going into people’s homes because once you are given the keys to someone’s home, you have that property in your care custody or care control and the whole reason we bring up the care custody or care control is because under the general liability ISO form which most any insure uses, there is an exclusion for personal property in your care custody or control. That’s what brought about the whole pet sitting industry when it comes to insurance because that’s when your … people’s content when you get the keys to their house or in your care custody control. If it is excluded, you have to have cover somewhere. So what we did, we took away and gave that coverage under the endorsement that we call a personal property in your care custody control, that’s how we market our program. However, we work with other companies like CNA and Travelers and they covered under animal bailee form as switch to property forms, not a liability form at all. That’s under the property form and then they give you pet groomer’s liability but you have to be careful reading those forms because they cover pet groomers, they cover boarding… and some of them will cover pet sitters. But you have to be very careful those forms are covering animals, there are nowhere in there that they are covering personal property in your care custody or control. And so the association policy is as we offered, covered both. Lot of these policies are limiting and they are only covering animals. So if you damage, let’s say you left a water damage or water on in someone’s apartment and it slipped through and damaged all the contents or you left it on in a house, upstairs and it damaged all the contents below and the sealing came in.
Bella: totally happened to me before.
David: that all be excluded under a rover policy. It is not in the care custody control. So you have to consider that. And lot of the forms I am reading from these new providers that are websites, they seem to be very limiting and I am yet to read a policy, so I honestly can’t give you an insight about what their forms say, I can only give you insight from what their website reads and from what I have read, it seems to be very limiting. So I think you need to take it into consideration. I noticed they exclude meet and greet, so if you are going out to meet someone and something happens, you know, one of the thing is important for everybody to understand is the difference between worker compensation and general liability. I have got a lot of pet sitters, they come to me for the first time and they want coverage and they say, okay, what do I need? I tell them, well first of all, you need a liability policy. You get your liability policy, some people have the thought processes that that’s covering their injuries. And that’s not the case because workers compensation exclusive remedy or employee injuries, independent contract that are working for you, if they are uninsured unless they provide you with a certificate covers you elsewhere and it is the only way to cover anyone that is working for you.
Bella: and yourself right, you could take it out on yourself if you wanted to, right?
David: absolutely, you do. Most, all States allow you to elect or reject coverage as an, so you can either have the choice of covering just your employees or you can cover yourself if you are a one person show. So you can make sure that if you get bitten or you slip and fall and get hurt, which I see these claims all the time, pet sitters. So you know, if you are going to do a meet and greet and you slip and fall or get bitten, they are not going to cover that. So that would be a workers. They are not going to cover any peoples injury in your household. So if you have people that are, you are boarding pets in your home and you get injured or bitten, again that’s going to be workers.
Then the other thing that goes to play is your contents are not going to be covered, so if you bring a dog into your house and it gets out of its spot, let’s say, you kept it in the bathroom or kept it somewhere and it got out and all your furnishings, you are out of luck. Because your policy won’t cover it either because there is an exclusion business liability under all policies. There is endorsement to a homeowners policy which you can add but that’s only if you home owner to add it, they would, knowing what you are doing, that you are boarding pets and it is basically the endorsement for the incidental business but they are going to look at the, they are going to question that and they probably won’t even want to insure you anymore, so that’s going to be a tough sell.
Bella: yeah. Now, David, we are only like 15 minutes into these interview and I can already see and hear our listeners going ‘Oh my God!’ have been so overwhelmed and stressed and to you guys, I want to take a minute and say, please don’t let that paralyze you. There’s health out there and there is, I am definitely not the expert in it but I have a platform that I want to encourage you to contact David. David is not any salesman, he is not any high-pressure salesman, he is just as much about education as I am. He will review any policy that you have. I have known him for years, he is the nicest person ever. He will explain it insides out, backwards forwards. You just need to say, ‘Wait, can you say that again? Or can you rewind?’ How many times I have done that to you? And this is probably like our 5th interview that we are doing because he wants us all to be educated.
So I want to encourage you that if this is starting to feel like over your head or too much information, don’t get scared or paralyzed or run away because you will thank me that time when you actually knew the insurance, you know you have it.
David, I have a question in my group and it says, if I carry the rover or DogVacay insurance packages, should I consider purchasing independent insurance. Do the benefits outweighs the cost? Could you speak to that because I am sure a lot of people listening right now have this same question?
David: yeah, my personal opinion, if you can’t read their policy, you should get a policy that you can read, this is going to protect you and not only for that, but just for reading some of the things that they exclude on their websites. You know, I have a list here, it says here that damages to the sitter, dog walkers personal property which we know there’s no coverage for, injuries to the sitter dog walker, anyone related to or living with the sitter or the walker or anyone helping provide coverage. So it is nothing else, if you want to protect yourself, for running your business, if you get hurt, there is a workers policy that will pay for your medical injuries, they will pay doctors bill, they will pay medical pharmacy charges and they also cover disability. So if you can, they will replenish your lost revenue from your business.
Bella: I think I just want to say that I think that something really important that if you are a dogvacay or a rover or anything like that kind of pet sitter and you are using this, I have met a lot of pet sitters recently that they make this full time job and they are happy and it is great and I love that. But I want you to consider like what would happen if the next pet sitter you went to, you did slip and fall and break your ankle like David was saying and you are doing 5 visits a day, 5 days a week, you are making a pretty good income for yourself and that’d be a major financial dent because all of a sudden you couldn’t do it, you probably will lose your clients because they will need to find someone else but at least if you saved up some money and got a policy yourself, at least you could still have some income while you are healing and have yourself taken care of, so it is almost entirely different mind-shift when you are a part of this and I guess while I am saying this, I also want to say that I think it is incredible that DogVacay and Rover actually do offer something. I feel like there’s been a little bit of miscommunication in the industry on what that something is, which is what inspired me to do this video today. By pure definition, you are an independent contractor for Rover or Dogvacay. So I also got the question, well Bella, maybe we should tell them to get us better insurance? I am like, no, no, no, no, if they do that, you would be an employee and that’s not their model. That is not what you signed up for.
So I see this break between education here in the middle, you have these online websites and the pet sitters thinking, oh I have insurance but not understanding what that means and their websites, although you might not be, I haven’t been able to see actual policies, they do a good job with summarizing what we do not cover and you, as a business owner or independent contractor, it is important for you to look past the snuggly kitties and puppies and dog walking and exercise and actually take a good look at the business implications that you could be having on yourself, your home and your family.
And David is such a great, you do great inventory of peoples liability exposure and again, I cannot stress enough, if you are listening this today, I really want you to call up David and say, hey this is what I have got, where I am left liable, where I am left vulnerable? And what are my options? Can you explain it to me in a way that I can understand, so that at least, you are not part of the expression, ignorant, to your situation. There are great methods of making money, I am absolutely not saying it is bad but what I am saying is that, there needs to be more education on this topic.
David, sorry to interrupt you. But go on back to your list there because I love this list.
David: okay, one thing before I go back to the list, I do want to point out the same thing that you said because I am a believer in getting it all out there and being positive and giving the variety where it is due and both of these sides, you cover your pets which is most policies would not cover your own pets.
Now, you might have to be $500 deductible or 250 deductible but at least, you have some coverage on your own pet, let’s say 2 dogs got into a fight and one is you are boarding and one is your personal pet, you certainly want your pet to be taken care of. Even our association policy don’t cover because that’s the first party cover, that is the dog that you own, you are responsible for that, we are taking care of most liability policies would take care of the dog that you are taking care of, not your own.
So there are surpluses. One of that is if you do any work outside either Rover or DogVacay, you have to understand that you definitely need your own policy because your back coverage won’t apply. Because this is a policy for them and the people who are working through their program but if you get any pet sitting outside or any boarding and you don’t book with them or you met a client that says, I don’t want to deal with Rover, I want to deal with you, in that case you probably need to look into having your own liability policy just to protect you, even if you know that person and are best friend because it is long enough to see people turn when a claim happens. So if there is an incident, you want to be protected.
Looks like, the cost for medical or vet bills as a result of a dog illness excludes or preventable care. Well, I agree with that. Most policies are going to exclude that because that’s not your responsibility. If a dog has preexisting condition or they have a disease that was given to them prior to being with you, that’s one thing. Now if you cause the incident like if you dog were to give something to them, you know, we will cover that into our liability policies and most would. So that’s going to be considered as a preexisting injury or a property damage claim to a pet. So if anything happens to the pets when you are in control, there’s two ways of looking at this and I don’t know how it is spelled out on these websites. I read a lot of policies that will limit you to a thousand dollars or maybe even up to $5000 for that coverage. An example of vet medical would be let’s say the dog’s towards ACL. Just about running in the backyard. Happens all the time.
Bella: yeah, it sure does.
David: and you know what, you are not negligent. So, you didn’t cause that, the dog was running and another thing is let’s say the dog is out in your backyard and ingest a rock or a stick. Those claims happen all the time or they ingested a toy. You know, you were negligent just because that dog acts because you didn’t think the dog act and so, because of that, you have to watch the vet medical limit and the care custody control limit. Because most policies under the care custody control or the animal bailee or the professional liability, they are only going to cover you if you are negligent. There’s lots of claims that go on where you are not negligent and there is a grey area. So to begin, that’s where I’d love to see the coverage forms to see where their coverage starts and stops. And it could be that they are willing to pay some of these claims out of pocket and that could be Rover or it could be, I don’t know the answer to that unless I see their policy.
Bella: wouldn’t it be so great if we could get like on a three way interview one day with them and just like them is the people and you as the insurance expert and me like I will represent all the pet sitters, I don’t know, wouldn’t that be cool?
David: yeah, I would love to because again, all I want to do is educate the public, I have been doing this for so long and we can educate both the pet owners, the pet sitters and people who are selling insurance really not as good as it could be, you know, I would like to educate them all. Because it would really help being the industry up as opposed to having people that have claims that aren’t covered or are limited and then they have a headache and then they hate insurance.
Bella: you deal with the oopsies all the time, huh? People probably crying to you on the phone
daily, ‘What do you mean it is not covered?’
David: I wouldn’t say daily but I would say at least monthly I get somebody crying. And you know, I want to help them. The good in me wants to be like I want to pay the claim right now. I am sorry, let me call the company. I call the company and they still won’t able to do certain things since they are limited. It just depends on what the form says and that’s why I preach over and over again, get your cover forms, I will be to review them for you or you can take it to an insurance agent that you trust in your local area but have somebody review the coverage forms to see what are the limitations, the exclusions and where coverage starts and stops.
That’s awesome! It’s been about 25 minutes now, I like to kind of keep it short and sweet. I think we have given everyone some really good food for thought and I didn’t really intend to but if anyone from DogVacay or Rover is listening to this which I hope, you guys do and you want to join us, please contact me, I am all over the internet and I am sure there are some contacts where the videos is.
And we would love to get on like just a panel and just talk about it because I feel like insurance, I still don’t like insurance myself, no offense. It is still so complicated to me and I know, there’s a lot of people that feel that way. You know, we are pet sitters and dog walkers, dog boarders and groomers and trainers, we are not insurance experts. So, I am so glad that you always take the time. David is always up to say, yeah Bella, when do you want to do it? I asked him yesterday to do this and today he is on. So David, from all of us pet sitters, all over the world, thank you for being you and helping us out.
Everyone else, if you want to get a contact with David, go ahead and go to business insurance of Carolinas or David, what’s your email? That’s probably is a good way too, right?
David: yeah, thank you. My email is ‘d’ as in David, ‘p’ as in Pearsall, @ business insurance.com. you can find me on the internet by business-insurance.com.
Bella: okay, wonderful.
Well, thanks everyone for joining us and please, please know exactly what you are covered for so that you are not crying on the phone to your insurance agent one day.
[END OF AUDIO 26:12]