Deciding on an insurance company is an exciting step in your pet housing journey. While insuring your program may seem a bit daunting at first, it’s important to remember that pet-inclusive coverage is not a new concept. Hotels, apartments, and senior living facilities all work with insurance companies to cover the wide range of pets that come through their doors.
Finding the Right Provider
Insurance companies work for you, so don’t hesitate to ask for what you need. If your current provider isn’t able to accommodate your pet program, don’t be afraid to shop around and examine multiple options. Consider factors other than price, such as their community involvement and the type of coverage that they typically provide. It might be preferable to choose a company with a history of providing policies that cover pets. Human services shelters have found it very helpful to consult with insurance providers that specialize in animal shelter policies as they are already familiar with pet-centric programming.
Below is a list of insurance companies that have provided pet-inclusive coverage for domestic violence shelters. Do you know of others? Let us know!
- IFS Insurance
- Great American Insurance
- Philadelphia Insurance Companies
- HUB International
- Future Insurance
- Danielson Insurance
- Mahowald Insurance
- Lighthouse Group
- Amtrust Insurance
- Brown & Brown Insurance
- Williams, Turner, and Mathis
- AmGUARD Insurance Company
- Assurance Partners
Understanding Types of Insurance
The three main types of commercial insurance to consider when planning your pet program are property damage, general liability, and worker’s compensation.
Property damage insurance helps to protect rented or owned personal property, equipment, and physical buildings. This type of coverage can be used to help repair or replace items that have been destroyed, damaged, or stolen. Examples of property that would be covered include:
- Personal property and buildings
- Tools and equipment
- Inventory stored on-site
- Furniture such as tables, couches, and beds
- Computers that are used for your organization
- Outdoor landscaping, such as fencing
Protecting your property helps to prevent lost income and keep your organization’s services running smoothly. You’ll want to showcase the strengths of your programming during discussions with your insurance provider by identifying the ways that you have reduced risks associated with pet care.
We suggest incorporating the following building materials into your pet housing design, to help withstand damage from pets and ensure that your property stays in tip-top shape.
Remove carpeting and install waterproof flooring or tile with polymer grout. This type of flooring is extremely durable and makes it easy to clean up messes and accidents. Luxury vinyl flooring is one of our favorite options. We recommend choosing one that is listed as “waterproof” rather than “water-resistant” – you’ll pay a bit more but it will greatly reduce the chances of moisture seeping under your floors and creating a mold problem!
Benefits: cost-effective, durable, low maintenance, waterproof, scratch- and stain- resistant, long lasting, reduces risks of mold and mildew, will not trap allergens, gentle on paws.
Attach Wainscoted Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) panels to your walls for extra protection. FRP panels are thin, flexible, and help protect your walls from scratching, chewing, and dirty paws. FRP can be adhered to many different types of wall surfaces, including concrete, wood, drywall, and more. When attaching FRP, don’t forget caulking, which is a mixture of latex and acrylic materials that help to seal air leaks and seams against leakage.
Benefits: easy installation, strong, lightweight, low maintenance, long-lasting
Another great way to mitigate risk of pet-caused property damage, is ensuring that your program has strong enrichment protocols. Enrichment engages a pet’s mind and body, prevents boredom, and improves quality of life. Keeping pets both mentally and physically healthy can help reduce stress, anxiety, and unwanted destructive behaviors.
General liability insurance is required in most areas and covers medical and other costs incurred if your organization faces a lawsuit. Every organization and business is unique, therefore your coverage and costs will differ from others. Two examples of claim areas that are covered include:
- Bodily Injury: If a client or guest injures themself on the property, this policy will help cover the costs of their medical bills.
- Property Damage: As mentioned above, this policy also helps cover the cost of items and property damaged by staff, clients, and guests.
When discussing general liability insurance with your provider, be sure to share the policies and procedures your organization has implemented to reduce risk.
Outline who will be providing care: Determine who will be responsible for daily feeding, cleaning, walking, and enrichment. To help protect staff, other clients, and guests, we recommend that this responsibility be assigned to the pet parent.
Establish where pets will live during their stay: Describe your housing model. Will pets be staying in-room with the pet parent? In a separate space with individual kennels? Will cats live in communal housing? Additionally, remember to include where play areas are located and how pets will access them. If your outdoor play yards or kennels use chain link fencing, consider adding privacy slats to reduce conflict between pets. Highlight that playtime will only be with the pet’s family and that pets from different families will not play together.
Identify areas where pets are not allowed: We recommend restricting pet access to common rooms, kitchens, and other shared spaces where people congregate. Having pet-free spaces can help reduce risk by minimizing the number of unfamiliar people and animals a pet comes in contact with.
Share your vaccination and quarantine protocols: Insurance companies will want to know that there is a clear process for animal intake and medical care. We recommend quarantining new pets until they have received a veterinary exam, vaccinations, and parasite preventatives.
Worker’s Compensation insurance covers medical costs if an employee is injured on the job. It also covers lost income for the employee while they recover from a workplace injury. When determining policy premiums, insurance companies tend to focus on how much risk employees face in their position. We recommend providing your insurance company with details about how staff will interact with pets and how your program will ensure that working conditions are safe. Common questions to consider and plan for include:
- How many staff will be exposed to pets? Remember, exposure to pets doesn’t necessarily mean that staff is providing hands-on care.
- How many staff will be overseeing pet care?
- What type of pet care duties will be expected?
- What are your safety protocols for handling pets?
- What type of training will staff receive prior to working with pets?
- What is your plan for staff with pet allergies?
- How are you protecting against other hazards?
- Will staff be responsible for transporting pets?
Other Types of Insurance
Other types of insurance that you may already have or need are commercial umbrella insurance, directors and officers insurance, and business auto insurance. Commercial umbrella insurance gives your organization an extra layer of protection by assisting with costs that go beyond what your other liability coverage provides. Once you have reached the maximum amount of liability coverage, commercial umbrella protection jumps in. Directors and officers (D&O) insurance helps cover legal expenses in the event that a lawsuit is brought against a board member or officer due to decisions or actions they have taken as a part of their job. D&O and business auto insurance likely will not be impacted by your pet program, but it is always best to double check with your provider.
Advocating for Pet Inclusive Coverage
If you are satisfied with your current insurance company, but feel that they could use extra encouragement when considering pet housing programs, show them the many organizations that are advocating for pet-inclusive housing.
- Michelson Found Animals and the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) partnered to create the Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative to increase pet-friendly rental housing across the U.S.
- A new California law signed in 2022 requires housing developments financed with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to accept residents who own one or more pets.
- The Office for Victims of Crime, a program of the U.S. Department of Justice has provided annual grant funding for emergency and transitional pet shelter and housing assistance programs for domestic violence survivors with pets.
- The California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Pet Assistance and Support (PAS) Program provides funding to homeless shelters specifically for reducing barriers and increasing support for people experiencing homelessness with pets.
Navigating Breed Restrictions
Breed-specific legislation, or BSL, involves government laws and ordinances that apply to specific breeds of dogs. BSL either bans or restricts ownership of specific breeds that are stereotypically seen as dangerous or high risk, such as Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Pit bull mixes. Thankfully, there are many organizations and experts that agree that restricting dogs based on appearance does not increase community safety for people or pets. In fact, some states have instituted laws that prohibit insurance companies from refusing coverage based solely on a dog’s breed.
If your insurance company has or is considering including breed-specific restrictive policies, we urge you to share information on this topic with them.
Ketia Johnson is a Community Outreach Coordinator with RedRover. Prior to joining the Don’t Forget the Pets team, she earned her Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College and spent over 8 years working in veterinary medicine at animal shelters.