The Risks and Rewards of Running a Pet Business From Home
25th July 2022
Ensure your pet business isn’t a risky business
Managing a business from your home can undoubtedly be very rewarding. It offers you convenience, cost benefits and flexibility.
But aside from the practical benefits, running a pet business from the ‘comfort’ of your home presents many risks. From dog walking or day-care and grooming to boarding kennels or breeding there are many factors to consider.
When you are handling pets, there are added risks not associated with other sectors. Animals can be unpredictable and even dangerous. Plus, with the soaring value of some breeds, pets can be a seen as a target for thieves which can put not only your business at risk – but your home and family too.
From insurance and safety assessments to practical and logistical problems of having the general public in your home or on your land, here are some of the most common, and often overlooked, risks – plus some practical tips how you can minimise your business exposure.
Top 5 tips for running a successful pet business from home
1. Meet the client – pet and owner!
You should always meet the owners and their pets before accepting their business. For example, an unruly or dangerous dog can be a risk to you, your home, other pets in your care, the public, and ultimately your business reputation.
It is good business sense to meet the animal first and be discerning about which you accept. Even if it means turning away business.
For example, a dog sitter or walker could offer a trial period or test walk to check how the dog responds to the lead, commands, pedestrians, vehicles and other dogs. You should also consider adding a clause into your contract stating that if a dog is unmanageable then the contract can be terminated. This leads us on to tip two…
2. Make a contract
Many new pet businesses start off as an informal arrangement between friends, then word of mouth helps the business to grow. The common oversight is that such a small business does not need a contract in place. This is not the case and is a risk never worth taking.
Your pet business needs a contract in place to protect it from disgruntled pet owners or those who exploit your relationship. The contract will help you establish clear boundaries and expectations including terms of your arrangement, pricing structure and payment terms.
3. Keep it legal
Insurance is essential to protect both the business, your home and the client. There can be unexpected and inherent dangers associated with working with animals – from damage to others property, injury to members of the public or a risk of something happening to your client’s highly valued or beloved pet.
Public liability insurance – covers your business should it cause property damage or cause an injury to a child playing in a park for instance due to negligence. If your business was sued, your insurance would cover the damages provided negligence was proven. Public liability insurance will also cover an injury to a pet in your care. For example, if you plan on taking dogs in your care to places where there might be other dogs or take the dogs off lead (with the owners’ permission), public liability insurance will give you peace of mind.
Personal accident cover – highly recommended when working with animals. It will help to replace lost income due to being unable to work following an injury sustained whilst working.
Employers’ liability insurance – this is a legal requirement if you employ anyone else to help you in your business whether they are full or part time, paid or voluntary.
Material Damage insurance –covers your own equipment, including transportation crates, leads, treats, toys, food, grooming equipment or any other equipment you use for your business. Cover is also available for purpose built buildings used purely for the business such as animal pens or grooming salons.
Commercial Legal Expenses insurance – Designed to protect you from unexpected legal costs arising from carrying out your business including employment disputes, tax disputes, contract and debt recovery and crisis communication to name a few.
Home insurance – Cliverton’s home insurance policies are specifically designed for people running businesses from their home or land and covers:
• Accidental damage to domestic buildings and contents
• Personal possessions away from the home (optional)
• Personal Legal liability to the public
• Temporary accommodation costs
• Injury to domestic staff
• Domestic freezer contents
• Unauthorised use of bank cards following theft
• Pedal Cycles for theft or accidental damage
4. Home hazards
If pets in your care will be inside your home or garden at any time you must ensure they cannot get their teeth into the following everyday household items:
1. Poisonous houseplants and flowers
2. Electrical cables
3. Cleaning agents
4. Garden chemicals such as weedkillers and pesticides
5. Human food especially chocolate, nuts, and grapes
6. Human medicines, vitamins, and supplements
7. Pet medication
10. Plastic bags
11. Household appliances including paper shredders and washing machines or dryers – keep the doors closed!
12. Toilet seats – keep them down!
5. Best practice guidelines
In order to give credibility to your business you should consider joining an accredited association such as The Pet Industry Federation (PIF). This gives customers the assurance that you will care for their pets as much as they do and you will provide the highest quality of pet care when they use your services.
This demonstrates that you are committed to providing excellence in the health and safety of people’s cherished pets while they are in your care.
NarpsUK (the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers in the UK) and they offer training courses, memberships, and promote national standard guidelines. Their practical day-to-day tips on running a pet business and legal advice is invaluable.
Some of their advice includes:
• Have prior experience of caring for animals
• Only use reward-based training
• Never be violent towards an animal
• Always meet owners in advance of taking their business and make sure they fully understand the contract they are agreeing to
• Do not walk more than four dogs at the same time
• Always correctly dispose of excrement
• Check with local authorities to obtain any necessary permits or permissions
• Have a relevant DBS clearance to present to clients
With proper risk management practices and specialist insurance policies in place, you can ensure the safety of the animals in your care and the success of your business. By following this advice, not only will you minimise your business risk, but you will also enhance your business reputation.