How to Start a Dog Walking Business – the Ultimate Guide! Part 5
Have you picked your business name and registered your business? Have you decided when you are going to officially “open” your business? These were topics covered in my last article. Today’s article is going to be about minimizing your worries about legal stuff.
Step 5: Get insured and licensed for peace of mind (and more)
Why should I pay for insurance?
Before I say anything, I want you to know that I’m not selling any insurance to you here. Or I’m not even associated with any of them. Yet having dog walker insurance coverage can save you time and money or even your business if something happens to your business in the future. Things that could happen include:
- Something happens to dogs while you are taking care of them (e.g. injury or theft)
- A dog owner claims that something was stolen from their house on the day you visited
- You lose your customer’s home key
- Your city may require you to be insured in order to operate as a commercial dog walker
In this day and age, these incidents not only cost you money but reputation. Words spread way faster than they used to. If an incident is not handled correctly, an upset owner can go on Facebook to update everyone like this: “What’s wrong with people? Today somebody stole my parking spot at work, then an annoying client keeps me on the phone for hours…and to top all that, looks like my dog hurt his leg when walked by a dog walker, and she doesn’t take any responsibility for it!” Then people start commenting, “Oh poor you,” “Who’s the dog walker?” “I’ll introduce you to my dog walker, she is awesome…” Within a few hours, half of this upset owner’s community knows about this. So it is important for your business to have coverage by a reliable insurance company that handles matters quickly, AND for you to know what the insurance coverage includes and what number to call when the unlikely event does happen.
Also, having dog walker insurance adds to your professionalism. I recommend you take a certificate of your insurance when visiting a dog owner for the first time. It’s a good idea to mention that you are insured on your business website as well. This helps the owner trust you and feel safe with you more easily.
Insurance gives you AND your clients peace of mind.
Dog Walker Insurance Companies
There aren’t that many types of insurance for dog walkers. Here are ones available in the United States.
Kennel Pro – They have 3 packages to suit your needs
Business Insurers of the Carolinas – a membership with either one of the following associations is required for purchase.
- For Pet Sitters Internationl (PSI) members – they offer both insurance and bonding plans.
- For National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) memebers – they offer both insurance and bonding plans.
- For International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) members – this one is more of dog training insurance.
Pet Sitters Associates – a basic membership includes general liability coverage. The website is very easy to navigate.
And here are dog walker insurance available in Canada.
Blinks – a membership with Pet Sitters International (PSI) is required.
PROfur – specialized coverage for dog walkers.
Canadian Pet Pro – tailored plan for pet sitters and dog walkers.
Another useful resource is Pet Sitter Insurance Comparison Charts by Professional United Pet Sitters LLC. Their charts compare the above mentioned insurance companies. However, be aware that their information may not be up-to-date (in fact, some of the links did not work there). So check with the insurance companies for current coverage, quotes etc.
And don’t forget to insure your car for business
If you are using your vehicle to transport dogs, make sure your car is insured to use not for personal use only but for business use. Ask your car insurance company if they have plans specific to pet businesses. Once your car is insured for business, you can keep a record of mileage and receipts for gas. This way, you can claim the cost as part of business expenses.
License/Permit requirements in your city
The last boring topic of the day (unless you enjoy dealing with insurance sales reps and fine prints) is licenses. Some places require permits or licenses to walk dogs. For example, the city and county of San Francisco requires a permit if a commercial dog walker wants to walk more than 4 dogs at a time (effective as of July this year). There is a similar permit for dog walkers in the city of Toronto. Every city has different regulations for commercial dog walkers, so check with your city government.
Congratulations! Now you’ve got through the dry topics of starting a dog walking business. Share in the comment sections what permits your city requires, so it’ll be a great resource for everyone!
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Image credit: Alan Cleaver on Flickr