Through your animal shelter’s or rescue’s services, there are numerous opportunities for volunteers to donate their time and help animals in need. Whether it is managing paperwork, taking dogs for a walk, or making sure the kittens and cats are well cared for, there is also a chance for volunteer injury. When injuries occur, you risk losing valuable volunteers, being responsible for medical expenses, or coming face to face with a lawsuit.

All animal shelters and rescues need volunteers, but, unfortunately, not all of them have policies, procedures, or the right insurance in place to protect their mission. You can change that today by taking the following steps to minimize accidents and protect your volunteers.

Steps to minimize volunteer accidents:

  1. Identify areas of concern.

Review past volunteer injuries to identify problem areas that need to be addressed. Once you have those listed, observe any areas or activities that cause injury. Look for ways to prevent injuries and create a list of ideas to implement.

Alternatively, you can also observe all activities happening in your animal shelter or rescue to look for other potential areas of concern. Create a list of ideas that can help streamline and eliminate volunteer injuries.

  1. Document expectations.

Take your list of ideas and create documented procedures and policies that clearly explain your expectations. These can include the proper ways to care for animals, lift heavy objects, transport animals, and how often volunteers should take breaks throughout the day.

  1. Train volunteers.

Schedule mandatory training sessions for volunteers to attend. Explain the areas of concern, steps you took to review the processes, and new policies and procedures. Give volunteers time to review the procedures and ask questions so they gain a clear idea of your new expectations. Be open to hearing additional ideas or concerns since they are on the front line in these scenarios every day.

  1. Eliminate hazards.

After you have your volunteer team on board, work together to remove hazards like excessive boxes or wiring to prevent falls.

What happens if a volunteer is injured?

Even with a documented approach, volunteer injuries can still happen. bites, scratches, falls, and lifting injuries are extremely common in animal shelters and rescues. The best way to protect your shelter or rescue is to make sure you have volunteer accident insurance.

Volunteer accident insurance is similar to worker’s compensation insurance for employees. It pays costs associated with an injury that occurs while a volunteer is working for your animal shelter or rescue. The main difference is it pays costs that their health insurance doesn’t cover like deductible expenses.

Where can you find volunteer accident insurance?

Insurance agents that specialize in nonprofit or animal shelter insurance can provide you with a quote for volunteer accidents.

Investing in volunteer accident insurance shows volunteers that you care about their safety and well-being. By showing you care, you are more likely to retain valuable volunteers and recruit new volunteers after an injury occurs.

Cyber crime is on the rise with more than 1,000 companies reporting breaches in 2016, a 40% increase from the prior year. As hackers successfully target big-named companies, they are also starting to look at small businesses and nonprofits. Why? These smaller organizations typically have little security in place, making it easy for them to “step in,” take what they want, and move on without being noticed. Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues are not safe from these criminals.

As a nonprofit animal shelter or rescue, you need funds and resources to carry out your mission. The best source of revenue you have is receiving donations from supporters. Sometimes that money is hand-delivered, but in most cases, donors provide you with credit card information to make a donation. Electronic financial transactions make you an ideal target for cyber criminals. There are steps you can take to protect your donor’s information and your animal shelter or rescue.

Steps to Keep Donor Information Safe

  1. Use encryption.

Securing donor information starts with how you receive it. Whether you use third-party software on your website or take the information by phone, you need to secure it. Encryption scrambles the information while it’s being processed so an outsider cannot intercept it. Check with your software to make sure encryption is enabled.

  1. Create a password policy.

Many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues store their donor’s information on site. A hacker can break into your server, e-mail, or computers with little effort. You can create a password policy that establishes a set number and type of characters needed. Fourteen characters are recommended by the experts.

  1. Install data security features.

Firewalls and antivirus software help prevent hackers from accessing sensitive donor information. In addition to installing these features, you also need to update them regularly. Put a volunteer with a strong IT background in charge of this task so it doesn’t get overlooked.

  1. Backup data.

Backup your data daily if possible. While this doesn’t prevent hackers from accessing it, it does help you if there is a breach. Some hackers hold information for ransom or block you from being able to access your data. By having a current backup file, you have a complete list of the individuals who need to be notified their information was compromised.

  1. Educate volunteers.

Today’s hackers stop at nothing to gain access to data – often disguising themselves as popup ads or vendors you use. Educating volunteers on phishing schemes, malware, and other unsafe internet activities keeps your information safe from unwanted downloads.

Cyber Liability Insurance

Each of the steps will help keep your donor information safe but doesn’t guarantee a cyber breach won’t occur. Cyber liability insurance protects nonprofit animal shelters and rescues in the event of a cyber attack or data breach by paying costs associated with the crime. Costs include the following:

  • Notifying compromised individuals.
  • Investigation.
  • Legal counsel.
  • Business interruption.
  • Public relations.
  • Defense.
  • Settlement.
  • Bank costs for reissuing credit cards.
  • Regulatory fines and penalties.

Cyber crime isn’t going to disappear overnight, so it’s critical your animal shelter or rescue takes steps to minimize potential breaches and keep your financial resources safe in the event of a breach.

Like many nonprofits, your animal shelter or rescue may rely on volunteers using their personal vehicles to run errands or transport animals in your care. In the insurance community, these vehicles are referred to as non-owned autos. Even though non-owned autos are not the property of your animal shelter or rescue, you can still be held accountable when a volunteer is involved in a car accident. In some cases, animal shelters and rescues are sued for the damage caused in an accident.

The good news is you can protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue by purchasing non-owned auto liability insurance.

What is non-owned auto liability insurance?

Non-owned auto liability insurance provides coverage in excess of the volunteer’s personal auto insurance. It pays for liability claims that your animal shelter or rescue is found liable for and the volunteer’s personal auto insurance doesn’t cover.

Since the coverage is in excess of the personal auto insurance carried by the volunteer, most insurance companies require volunteers to carry a minimum of $100,000/300,000 in limits.

What does it exclude?

There is no coverage on the non-owned auto liability insurance for damage to the vehicle, injury to the volunteer, or lawsuits filed against the individual driver (volunteer).

What types of scenarios does it cover?

Any time a volunteer drives their personal vehicle on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue opens the door to potential risks and claims. Do your volunteers use their vehicles in any of the following scenarios?

  • Running errands: Post office, bank, pick up supplies at Wal-Mart or other stores?
  • Transport animals to events, foster homes, or the vet?
  • Take supplies to an adoption event?

Accidents are unpredictable and can occur during any drive.

What you need to know about minimizing your risks

Investing in non-owned auto liability insurance is the best way to protect your animal shelter or rescue in the event of an accident or lawsuit. There are steps you can take now to help minimize potential risks.

  • Create a cell-phone use policy.

Twenty-six percent (more than 1.1 million) of crashes reported are due to cell phone use, according to the National Safety Council. Having a cell-phone use policy sets the expectation that it is not acceptable for volunteers to use their cellphones  while driving on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue.

  • Request proof of insurance.

Ask volunteers for proof of auto insurance before they drive on behalf of your animal shelter or rescue. If they don’t have the minimums mandated by the insurance company, don’t let them drive on your behalf. Why? If there is an accident, your non-owned auto liability insurance policy won’t pay any costs associated with it.

  • Ask volunteers to sign waivers.

Waivers are one way to help prevent your volunteer from filing a lawsuit after a car accident. While they aren’t always iron-clad, they do minimize the number of claims filed and can help protect you if the volunteer was not abiding by the law.

  • Define the right way to transport animals.

Do you have a clear procedure for transporting animals? Or do your volunteers decide how to transport animals on their own? Animals can be a significant distraction to a driver if they are not properly placed in a moving vehicle. Make sure your volunteers understand the process and review their first few times to be sure they get it right.

  • Request motor vehicle records (MVRs).

Motor vehicle records show you an individual’s driving history so you can see if they are a high-risk driver. If a volunteer has a long list of vehicle incidents including crashes and speeding tickets, it might be better to find a lower-risk volunteer.

Most animal shelters and rescues think they don’t need to worry about insurance for volunteer vehicles. But the truth is, buying non-owned auto liability insurance and implementing these steps are the best ways to protect your animal shelter or rescue.

Animal sanctuaries and animal shelters are often considered the same in the eyes of the general public. While they both have a common theme in their mission – to look out for the well-being of animals in their care – they also have some considerable differences. As an animal sanctuary, animals rely on you to provide a permanent home and care. Since your services are unique, you face unique risks each day. It is important to create a customized risk management or best practices plan to minimize those risks and continue to care for your animals.

Risk Management for Animal Sanctuaries

Risk management or best practices are guidelines animal sanctuaries can create to minimize potential dangers during their daily activities. These risks include, but are not limited to, animal bites, scratches, animal sickness, volunteer injury, volunteer death, slip and falls, and animal escapes.

  1. Volunteers

Volunteers are arguably your greatest asset – donating their time and hearts to maintain your sanctuary’s mission. They are also one of the biggest risks. Establishing a volunteer vetting process and handbook is critical to your continued success.

As valuable as volunteers are, it is important to recruit the right individuals for the job. Interview potential volunteers, conduct background checks, and request references before accepting a new applicant. Look for red flags (volunteering at numerous organizations in a short time) and address them upfront.

A handbook sets expectations for volunteers right away. Include attendance policies, job descriptions, safety information, and animal handling procedures. Reinforce the handbook with structured training and education that gives volunteers the ability to show they understand these policies and procedures.

  1. Animal Injury/Sickness

Every animal that comes into your care has a back story. It’s important to have an animal intake policy that digs into their needs, personality traits, and health. Use this information to understand if you can properly care for their needs or not. If you can, identify what special needs each animal has. If they are aggressive towards other animals, create a space where they can roam on their own and plan to socialize them over time.

  1. Animal Bites/Scratches

Animal bites and scratches can occur between animals or between animals and volunteers. The key to minimizing these incidents is educating volunteers on how to handle animals properly. Volunteers should have a clear understanding of the animal’s personality before they work with them. And they should know what steps to take when an animal bites or scratches them.

  1. Animal Escapes

From time to time, we see scenarios on the news where animals escape from sanctuaries. Create a procedure that mandates volunteers work in at least pairs when entering the animal area and describes how to latch gates and contain animals properly.

If an animal escape does occur, it is also valuable to have a set procedure on how you will notify the public, recapture the animal, and keep the community and volunteers safe.

  1. Visitors

Some animal sanctuaries allow visitors on their property. Make sure you have signs labeling what areas are okay and not okay for them to navigate. Make sure all visitors are escorted by a trained volunteer at all times. And keep visitors away from potentially dangerous animals.

  1. Emergency Preparedness

Depending on where you live, there is a chance for natural disasters to occur. During Hurricane Katrina, many animal-related organizations learned first-hand the importance of an emergency-preparedness plan. Identify now how you will transport animals, where you will transport them, and what volunteers are capable of traveling with the animals to a safe location.

Creating a risk management is important for your continued success as a nonprofit animal sanctuary and helps minimize injuries, claims, and stress.

Animal shelters and rescues are important to the communities they serve. Animals come to you for care and shelter until they find a forever home. Some come from other shelters, caregivers abandon some, and others show up with little or no history of their life to date. Every animal is a priority in your daily activities. But, sometimes caring for animals is risky. In those moments, what type of insurance you purchased is critical to you shelter or rescue’s well-being.

Insurance

Few people that enjoy shopping for insurance. It can be a long and tedious task if you don’t have an agent that fully understands what you do every day. Finding the right insurance is the first step to being able to properly care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or rescues know they need general liability insurance and directors and officers insurance. There are other insurance coverages that help protect you too. Animal care custody and control liability is often overlooked and excluded from most policies.

What is animal care custody and control liability insurance?

Animal care custody and control liability protects your animal shelter or rescue if somebody sues you for an injury or death to an animal. It is a critical coverage that you can add on through an endorsement to your liability insurance policy.

Why do I need animal care custody and control?

Some animal shelters and rescues think they don’t need this coverage because they don’t knowingly take in someone’s animal. But, animal shelters and rescues have been the victim of lawsuits and needed animal care custody and control to protect them. Here are two common scenarios where this coverage can help.

Owners change their minds.

We’ve all seen it happen. Previous owners abandon their four-legged family member and make the right decision by leaving him/her in your care. A few days pass by before they return wanting to reclaim their pet. What happens if the cat, dog, or horse get sick or run away in that short period of time. Who is responsible? If the family sues your organization, are you protected?

It depends on who the court declares as the rightful owner. In some cases, signed releases are not recognized as valid in a court of law.

Lost pets.

What happens when somebody finds a roaming animal and brings it to you? It’s not theirs and they are looking for a place they know will care for the animal until the owners can be contacted. Plenty of shelters and rescues accept these animals into their care and hope to reunite them with their family.

 

What happens if they run away or passes away in your care before the family comes to pick the animal up and return home? The family may decide to file a lawsuit and say the death or disappearance of their animal is your fault.

In both cases, general liability insurance won’t cover defense or settlement expenses unless you purchased animal care custody and control coverage. Contact your insurance agent today to add this valuable coverage to your policy. If they don’t offer it, contact an insurance agent that specializes in animal shelter and rescue insurance.

Working with animals on a daily basis requires special individuals with big hearts and a strong will. Animal shelters and rescues rely on these individuals to run smoothly and make decisions in the best interest of the animals in need. Animal rescue organizations vary in type and size. Some have a physical location and others are 100% foster-based. Some participate actively in adoption events while others rely on social media to promote adoptions. No matter the operational differences – they all require specialized liability insurance.
Foster-based Organizations
Animal rescues that are foster-based rely on volunteer foster parents to house and care for their animals. One of the most common questions we hear is,
“Does my animal rescue really need liability insurance if we don’t have a physical location?”
The answer is simple: “Absolutely!”
Why?
Many assume general liability insurance only protects organizations from slip and fall accidents at their location. While this is true – there are other protections included in liability insurance policies for nonprofit animal rescues. Here are 5 main reasons your foster-based animal rescue needs liability insurance:

  • Animal Bites.
    Liability insurance protects against damage or injury to individuals not associated with your rescue (volunteers or employees). One of the biggest risks you face is a member of the public getting bit by a dog, cat, or horse in your care. These individuals may file a lawsuit claiming your organization was negligent which led to the bite. Lawsuits involving minors can be extremely costly to an organization. Liability insurance pays to defend you and settlement costs when necessary.
  • Adoption Events.
    Many foster-based rescues rely on adoption events to introduce animals to the public and increase chances of adoption. If you attend adoption events, your organization faces many risks because you can’t control everything all the time. Animals can jump and knock individuals over, scratch, and attendees might fall and injure themselves at your booth/table. Liability Insurance pays to defend your organization and any settlement costs resulting from the lawsuit. The best liability insurance policies extend to include coverage at these events while others may charge an additional fee for each event you attend.
  • Foster Home Visits.
    Foster parents open their hearts and homes to animals in need of care. The actions of the animals are not covered under their personal homeowner’s insurance policy. To protect your organization from incidents occurring in a foster home, you need to purchase liability insurance. Liability insurance protects you in the event a potential adopter visits the home, injures themselves and files a lawsuit for damages.
  • Medical Expense.
    Each of the incidents above shares a common factor- the chance for an individual not related to your organization to become injured. Whether they choose to file a lawsuit or not – there are still medical bills that need to be paid. Liability insurance pays medical expense in these instances.
  • Adoptions Gone Wrong.
    You go to great efforts to place animals with amazing forever homes. Aggression testing, socialization, and adoption applications are necessary parts of this process. Even with these steps, adoptions sometimes go wrong. A dog may bite or show aggression in their new home causing a lawsuit to be filed against your animal rescue. The right liability insurance covers instances like these and pays to defend you and any settlement costs incurred.

These coverages are unique to animal rescues and shelters and require an insurance policy tailored to your specific needs. Contact your insurance agent today to confirm these necessary coverages are present on your policy. If you have additional questions or need more information, contact the team at Animal Welfare Organization Insurance program at 800-673-2558.

The most important service an animal shelter or rescue provides their local communities is matching animals with the perfect forever home and family. Sometimes adopting families are not readily available. And sometimes the animals need to be reintroduced to loving home and family. Both of these require time – time to find the perfect family and time for the animal to readjust to a safe and comfortable life. Animal shelters and rescues rely on foster homes to provide the animal in need with the care and environment they need.

It is important for the animal shelter or rescue to recruit caring and loving foster parents capable of providing this care. Where do you start? How do you know they will make amazing foster parents? Use this checklist to select the best foster parents.

What to do

  • Require a foster home application.
  • Conduct an in-person or over the phone interview.
  • Visit the home.
  • Require a foster agreement.
  • Conduct a background check.
  • Conduct a foster parent orientation and training.

Questions to ask

  • How long can they commit to fostering?
  • How many hours do they spend away from their home daily?
  • Where do they live?
  • What does their property consist of? Is there a yard? Is there a fence?
  • What do they think proper care consists of?
  • Are the financially able to provide for the animal?
  • How will they handle any potential trips out of town?
  • Who lives in their home? What are their ages?
  • Do they have any additional animals?
  • Do they have knowledge of proper animal care?
  • Do they have experience caring for animals?
  • Are they willing to allow potential adopters visit their home?
  • Why do they want to be a foster parent?
  • How will they handle the animal leaving after growing attached?

These are vital questions to gain a better understanding of the potential environment for the animals. You want to match the animal with a home that best suits their needs.
Recruiting great foster parents increases your long-term retention and gives more opportunity to help animals in need.

Accidents happen. Every day nonprofit animal shelter teams work to educate, provide, and raise money for animals in need in their communities and beyond. Directors in charge of these valuable animal rescue organizations know firsthand volunteers are the foundation of a nonprofit’s success. But accidents do happen – to volunteers, visitors, and foster parents. Many animal shelters utilize policies, procedures, and handbooks to minimize the risk of incidents and accidents. Do you have an accident investigation plan ready to implement when “life happens”?

Accidents
There are a variety of accidents animal shelters and rescues experience during normal daily operations:

  • Slip & falls
  • Animal scratches
  • Animal bites
  • Animals knocking down volunteers or visitors
  • Scrapes, bruises, and cuts

Each type of accident (sometimes referred to as incidents) requires a unique plan to proactively manage the outcome and take care of the injured parties.
Accident Investigation Plans
Accident investigation plans are too often overlooked as part of the plan to manage accidents. They offer nonprofit animal shelters and rescues a great deal of valuable information. You can identify 3 main items in an accident investigation:

  • What and how the accident occurred.
  • What critical decisions were made or missed?
  • What can you do to prevent in the future?

Taking the time to investigate every accident requires time – but it is time well spent if you prevent future injuries.
Step by Step

  1. Appoint a lead person to investigate.
    Select a neutral individual to lead and conduct the accident investigation. A neutral party has no outside personal ties to any of the parties involved in the accident and is not considered a witness to the accident.
  2. Provide a briefing.
    Provide them with an overview of the accident. What you know happened, where it occurred, who is involved, and what steps are being taken to provide care and treatment.
  3. Inspect the accident site.
    It is important the investigator start by inspecting the accident site. Look for signs of the accident, anything that might have caused the accident, anything that potentially impacted the decision-making process during the accident.
  4. Conduct interviews.
    Have the investigator interview those involved in the accident along with any witnesses. Document facts only and guide interviewees to leave personal opinions out of the discussion.
  5. Analyze findings.
    Review all facts and interview details to gain a 360-degree perspective of the accident. Look for changes and updates your animal shelter can make to prevent future occurrences.
  6. Make changes.
    Implement these changes by updating procedures, policies, and handbooks. Hold a mandatory volunteer training to assure each volunteer has a clear understanding of new expectations. Have each volunteer sign a statement acknowledging they understand the updates.
  7. Document.
    Documentation is vital in any incident, occurrence or accident. Document complete investigation findings in a final report along with updates and changes implemented. Include a list of all volunteers who participated in the training and include their signed acknowledgment form.

Conducting a comprehensive accident investigation seems daunting and time-consuming. It doesn’t have to be. Create a plan and procedure now on how you will investigate future accidents. Your animal shelter or rescue benefits from a better understanding of how and why decisions are made in critical moments. You can be proactive in making changes to minimize future occurrences and promote a safe volunteer work environment.

There are many factors to be considered when starting your own rescue. In fact the process can be long and pretty intense.  Here is a quick guide to help you lay out a plan and get the process moving.

1.    Determine a Mission & Vision Statement- developing a mission and vision statement will help you determine what types of equines you will accept, where they may come from, and how you will rehabilitate and adopt out.
2.    Do you have adequate land/space? Starting an Equine Rescue will require land and space. Do you own this land already? Do you need to purchase? Is it zoned appropriately?
3.    Apply for Organization Name. This filing can be completed on your department of state website.
4.    Apply for a 501c 3 Status. Filing for your nonprofit status can be completed online at irs.gov.
5.    Apply for an FEIN. This can also be completed online at irs.gov.
6.    Create a Business Plan. This plan should identify that path you plan to take to get your nonprofit developed, funded, and how you plan maintain that long term.

While this is not every step to starting your own Equine rescue, it should help with the launching of the idea and help to guide you on what questions need answered initially.

Animal welfare organizations do a great deal of good for their local communities and the animals they help.  Directors of the organizations have a lot on their schedules with volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, fundraising, and the day to day operations that they often forget to look at their insurance protection plans to verify there is adequate coverage. There are many different types of insurance coverage that are beneficial and necessary in running businesses, but what about non profit organizations, like animal shelters or rescues? Some types of insurance include directors & officers liability, general liability, accident and health, and special event insurance.

General liability insurance is one of the most common types of insurance carried by nonprofit animal shelters.  General liability insurance may provide protection for shelters and rescues in some of the following scenarios:

1.    A visitor to your shelter falls on uneven pavement and injures themselves which results in medical bills.  The medical bills would be paid for by your liability insurance.

2.    A family interested in adopting a dog or cat this is located at a foster home, visits the home and their child falls down the steps injuring themselves.  Coverage under the foster home’s homeowner policy is typically excluded because the visitor was there on business.  A general liability policy would provide coverage for the bills associated with it.

3.    Your organization sets up at local events promoting adoption of your animals. While you are there, one of the dogs jumps up and knocks an individual over causing injury.  A general liability policy would provide coverage for the medical bills as well as defense costs and settlement costs in the event a lawsuit is filed.

By choosing to not carry general liability insurance, your animal shelter is at risk for being sued for any one of the above type events. If you have no insurance in these instances, the shelter or rescue could be forced to close its doors and all of the hard work you and your volunteers have invested will be gone.

There are many different types of insurance that would benefit an animal shelter or rescue. It is most important that the individual shopping for insurance is honest with the insurance agent about all the daily happenings, services, and events being provided and attended by the organization.  Your agent will be able to help guide you in determining what your best insurance options are for complete coverage.