Bonds and Insurance
What do they really cover?
Bonds and insurance for pet sitting purposes is a bit misleading – and mostly inadequate, at least for the small time pet sitter. When buying insurance, most people don’t know the right questions to ask and most insurance agents don’t necessarily volunteer the answers. I can confidently address this subject because I have an advantage. I spent 20 years as a licensed insurance agent and I have a clear understanding of the contracts, coverage, limitations and exclusions. I think it’s important for both clients and pet sitters to better understand the value of an insurance policy and when – or if – it is truly protecting one or the other, or both from a financial loss.
BONDS. The Surety Bond (sometimes called a “Pet Bond” for marketing purposes) covers dishonest acts caused by employees or independent contractors (NOT the owner). This is great if you have independent contractors or employees but many pet sitters are sole proprietors (like me) and therefore excluded from coverage. It makes sense for the owner/sole proprietor to be excluded on the bond if you consider why we would insure ourselves against our own dishonesty or risk damaging our reputation by stealing from our client. Even then, the dishonest act itself isn’t enough. A conviction is required before the company will pay out. Obviously, I have chosen not to purchase a bond since its sole purpose is to make money for the insurance company with zero chance of ever paying a claim.
INSURANCE on the other hand, is more convoluted. In short, the primary concern for you the client, and for me, the pet sitter is coverage for your pets and injury to others. Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage coverage is for incidents that occur while pets are in the care, custody and control of the pet sitter and the loss of your pets themselves.
Unfortunately, the insurance policies that are supposed to protect pet sitters and clients have so many limitations and exclusions with “buy back” options that they are misleading, impractical and expensive except maybe for the big corporate business with multiple employees or contractors and higher risks of human error or negligence. I suggest looking over the policy offered by Petsitters Associates at http://www.petsitllc.com/faq.php where you can review the coverage and then talk to your agent to understand what those limitations and exclusions actually mean.
By the time a pet sitter buys the basic policy and then buys back each optional coverage that is initially excluded, it could cost $400 or more. It’s not an affordable or even a worthwhile purchase, when you consider what is covered (or not) under the policy. At least, not for the sole proprietor pet sitter. Pet sitting is not highly profitable for the single sitter, though you will often see a higher level of care, dedication and love for animals because their motivation is not profit-driven.
So if you see the words BONDED AND INSURED while looking for a pet sitter, it may appear professional and responsible but that is not necessarily the case. It might even be misleading or invoke a false sense of security in the pet sitter AND the client. Consider too, that a pet sitter might be providing a better service to the client by focusing on background checks and first aid training for true peace of mind, or even seminars and other annual classes to keep current on the latest pet care. After all, anyone can purchase a bond or insurance policy but knowledge and skill speaks for itself.