Why do dog walkers need insurance?

Why do dog walkers need insurance?

The bare minimum level of insurance you should have as a dog walker is public liability. Why do dog walkers need insurance? This type of insurance protects you if the dog you’re legally in charge of injures someone or damages something.

In fact, it’s wise for owners to have some form of third party liability in place. Sometimes this is included as part of your dog’s medical insurance but if not then the easiest way is to join the dogs’ trust for £25 (or £12.50 if you’re over 60) (Price valid January 2023) which includes third party insurance. It’s certainly cheaper than the £65,000 paid to this cyclist who was knocked off his bike by a dog or the £115,000 paid out to this woman who was pulled off her feet when she held onto her friend’s dog.

Even if the dog you’re walking is insured by its owners, you, as the dog walker, are now the person responsible and need to be insured yourself.

dog running towards the camera

According to the dangerous dogs act 1991 (which applies to all breeds, not just the banned ones), the person guilty of an offence is the owner and, if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog. The offence of ‘out of control’ is defined as an occasion where; “there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so”

You can see that according to the act, a member of the public merely has to feel as if they might be injured by your dog, for it to be classed as out of control and for you to be prosecuted, or sued. Even if you’re just starting out, please get at least the minimum coverage and you can always upgrade later.

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What kind of insurance do dog walkers need?

Most insurers allow you to mix and match your policy, building cover which is exactly right for your business. Laws, policies and situations change so please only take the following as general definitions and always check with your chosen insurer. Let’s take a look at the insurance options.

Public liability (Known as general liability in the US)

This is the foundation that all policies are built upon. If a client or member of the public claim that whilst you were working, they were injured, or if their property was lost or damaged, public liability insurance covers your legal fees, expenses and any compensation you’re ordered to pay.

Without it, you would be sued personally as a sole trader leaving you liable to repay your legal expenses, theirs and compensation if they win. If you’re a limited company the business itself would be sued. Even if you win your case, the amount of expenses you can claim from the other party rarely covers all your legal fees.

E.g. 1 You’re loading a group of dogs back into your vehicle after a walk and the last dog slips his collar and jumps up at the open window of the car next to you to say hi to the person inside. In doing so he puts deep scratches on the car door. Without public liability insurance, you’ll end up paying for a full respray and replacement vehicle hire whilst the work’s being done.

E.g. 2 You’re walking a dog with reliable recall who is offlead in a park. You turn a corner when he suddenly runs towards a woman, excited by the fact he can smell the ice cream she’s eating. Before you get a chance to call him back, he knocks her over and she breaks her leg. Without public liability, you’ll be paying for her loss of earnings, extra private medical care, expenses and an amount for pain and suffering. If the injury leaves her with a lifelong disability, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of pounds.

E.g. 3 You’re doing an overnight pet sit at a client’s house and you spill your coffee on their cream lounge carpet. You’ve paid for professional cleaning but it’s not coming out. Without public liability insurance, you’ll be paying for a new carpet.

Public liability insurance does not cover employees, temporary staff, students or people on work placements. That requires employers’ liability insurance.

we are hiring sign on a blackboard

Employers liability

If you employ staff, even if it’s just one person, or even if they’re a volunteer, in the UK it is a legal requirement to have employers’ liability insurance in place. You can be fined up to £2,500 per day that you do not have cover.

Professional indemnity

Also known as professional liability insurance, this covers you if a client is dissatisfied with a service given, or suffers a loss or damage due to negligent advice.

e.g . A dog walking client asks for help training their dog. You charge them for an hour of your time and advise them to the best of your ability. They follow your advice but it doesn’t seem to help. They employ an experienced, qualified trainer who explains that your advice has made the situation worse. They are now suing you for negligence because you have no training qualifications.

dog biscuits arranged in an arty fashion

Product liability*

This insurance covers you if you make and sell, or buy and resell products.

E.g. You start making collars as a side income. A buyer uses your collar but it snaps, and their dog runs off and is hit by a car. The dog survives but has a vet bill in the thousands which needs to be paid.

*some walkers have reported that this needs to be a separate insurance policy and can’t be added to an existing one.

Income protection insurance

This is an insurance policy that you yourself claim if you’re unable to work due to illness or injury. Some policies will cover a set amount, others will work out an average based on your HMRC self assessment declarations. It is usual that there is a waiting period of 14 days before you can claim.

Pet specific; Care, custody and control

This is standard with most pet business insurance policies. It covers you in case an animal gets injured, goes missing or dies whilst in your care.

E.g. The dog you are walking offlead eats something off the ground and is subsequently unwell and requires vet care. You will be covered for the vet fees.

Key cover

If you lose a client’s keys, key cover insurance usually covers you for;

  • Replacement keys and locks
  • Expenses involved in setting or resetting intruder alarms
  • Temporary security protection while all the above is being arranged

What if I work for someone else?

Often dog walkers will cover for other walkers (with the dog owners’ knowledge) during holidays or sickness. Whether their insurance is in force, or your own insurance is needed, will be down to whether you are employed by that person, or if you are self-employed.

Employed or self employed is a tax definition and can be clarified on the HMRC’s website. It can get complicated but they have a checker tool where you can answer questions and it’ll tell you your status. For example, if you could NOT send someone else to do the walk in your place then you are employed.

If you are Self employed – you will need your own insurance
If you are Employed – you are covered under theirs

dog running towards camera

How much is dog walkers insurance?

Dog walking insurance is typically between £100 and £200 per year (2022) depending on which additional levels of insurance you add to your policy.

The following premiums were quoted for the same business based in South Wales in February 2022.

  • All policies can be taken out by anyone aged 16 or over except Petplan where the minimum age is 18
  • They are for dog walking only
Insurance companyYearly premiumPublic liability coverProfessional indemnity coverKey coverCare, Custody, Control cover
Petplan Sanctuary£129.80£5 million£100k£10k£1250 (not a typo!)
Protectivity£103.02£5 millionNot included£10k£100k
Cliverton£120£5 millionNot included£10kUnlimited
Pet Business Insurance£107.70£5 millionNot included£10k£25k (x3 a year)

As you can see the figure vary wildly so it’s important to take your time and make sure you are adequately covered for the services you want to provide. Why do dog walkers need insurance? For the same reason we insure against anything in life, it’s the unexpected.

Click to read our full guide on How to Start a Successful Dog Walking Business in 2023



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