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.

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.

Volunteers are a valuable asset for animal shelters and rescues. Without them, shelters and rescues would be unable to achieve their mission. In 2013, the IRS released a report stating that 85% of nonprofit organizations are run by volunteers and have no paid staff.  Volunteers are responsible for organizing adoption events, raising funds, and caring for the animals in their animal shelters or rescues. Last week we reviewed the importance of creating and maintaining a volunteer program. One of the prime aspects of that program is to implement a volunteer handbook.

Volunteers differ from paid employees. However, managing volunteers requires a similar skill set.  Employee handbooks are common in both small and large businesses.  Nonprofit animal shelters and rescues need to implement a similar handbook for volunteers.  Here are the two main benefits of a volunteer handbook:

  1. Sets Expectations. A handbook is a tool that defines what is expected of the volunteer during their time at the shelter. It also identifies what the volunteer should expect from the organization in return for their donated time.
  2. Protects the Animal Shelter or Rescue. Creating and identifying clear policies and procedures for your volunteer team minimizes liability. The handbook provides guidelines and rules for how negative circumstances will be handled and offers a no-surprise resolution for both parties.

A hurdle many directors face is how to create a concise and informative volunteer handbook. Here are 7 essential sections to include in your handbook:

  1. What is the story behind your animal shelter or rescue? Tell the story of how you formed. Include your goals, mission, and vision for volunteers to gain a better perspective of who they are serving.
  2. Set expectations for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Behavior expectations include how volunteers treat one another, the animals, and the public.  Define work expectations in this section as well. Work expectations include the number of volunteer hours, responsibilities, and the appropriate way to take a day of absence.
  3. Policies and procedures for responsibilities are a tremendous help in minimizing potential dangers or disasters. Explain these procedures in detail in the handbook. This assures you each volunteer has the information prior to volunteering.  This is the section you address volunteer training requirements including times and methods of training.
  4. One of the biggest responsibilities of a shelter or rescue is to take in dogs, cats, and other animals that need care. This section reviews the policies for incoming animals and addresses the intake process including standards your shelter or rescue follows.
  5. Rescues or shelters that foster animals need a section on foster home policies and procedures. Often times, foster parents are overlooked as volunteers because they are not at the physical shelter.  They are a vital part of your volunteer team.  The risks and requirements of foster homes differ from other policies and procedures.
  6. Animal adoption is a major part of your operation.  This section identifies the standards and timeframes your animal shelter or rescue follows prior to placing an animal with their forever home.  This section also addresses the requirements of adopting families.  It is important that all volunteers are aware of the expectations so they can help properly place animals.
  7. It is common for volunteer handbooks to include a receipt that the volunteers sign. The signature verifies they read the handbook and are aware of the expectations outlined.

Create a strong volunteer program starts by implementing a volunteer handbook.  Work with your legal counsel to create a handbook that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

 

Animal shelters and rescues have the weight of the helpless animal population on their shoulders.  They find ways and methods to accomplish their significant missions and visions with minimal funding and resources. Animal shelters and rescues rely heavily on the support of donors who provide needed items as well as financial donations.  The last thing they need to add to their daily worries is the risk of a cyber attack that compromises their donor’s confidential information. According to a recent study released by The Global State of Information Security, security incidents increased by 38% and theft of “hard” information rose by 56% in 2015 when compared to 2014.  With the threat of cyber attacks on the rise, it is a real concern for many nonprofit animal shelters and rescues. Implement a cyber security program to protect your donors and your animal shelter or rescue.

Here are eight items to include in your program:

  1. Backup your data. Create a backup of information stored on your computers and server daily. Hackers have the power to compromise your electronic information, making it inaccessible. A backup provides you with an up to date list of your donors and their contact information, simplifying the notification process (a little at least).
  2. Secure physical data. Store physical donor files and confidential information in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet. Allow access to this information on an as-needed basis.  The fewer hands that physically touch the files, the smaller chance they can be misplaced.
  3. Limit the information you collect. A great rule of thumb to implement immediately is “if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it.” The less data you collect from donors, the less information a hacker gains during a breach.
  4. Purge unneeded information. If you have years of donor information stored in a back room at your animal shelter or on discs, it may be time to purge it. Keep only information you need. Often times, older files are stored and forgotten about. Holding onto donor files and information increases your chance of suffering from a breach.
  5. Update computers and software. Update computers and software programs on a consistent basis. Companies release updates and patches to help protect their customers from data breaches.  If updates are left unattended, your risk for a breach increases.  If you are not technology savvy, hire a local IT company to help keep your system up to date and secure.
  6. Use encryption. Use a data or donor collection service that encrypts the information your donors enter. Encryption encodes the information making it only accessible by those authorized to view it.
  7. Train your volunteer staff. Volunteers are a significant help to animal shelters and rescues. They can also be a great risk.  If your volunteer team is not internet or computer intelligent, they may unknowingly download malware or spyware.  Educate them on what is an acceptable use of the organization’s computers and emails.  Make it mandatory that downloads are not acceptable and should be approved by the director.  Phishing schemes are a common hacker specialty. Train your team on these to protect your shelter or rescue.
  8. Purchase cyber liability insurance. Cyber liability insurance is beneficial if it is purchased prior to a cyber breach or theft.  Cyber liability insurance protects your nonprofit animal shelter at the time of the breach by paying defense and settlement costs. The best cyber insurance policies take care of the state required notifications, which can be a long and treacherous task.

Cyber breaches are a serious threat to nonprofits like animal shelters and rescues.  The unfortunate news is hackers are becoming more creative in their schemes, making it difficult for companies to keep information secure.  Implement a cyber security program outlined here to protect your nonprofit animal shelter or rescue.

 

Animal Shelters and rescues attend adoption events as exhibitors to help raise mission awareness and increase adoptions.  Events range from a small open house to a larger event with multiple animal shelters and rescues.  Deciding to attend an event comes with risks. Plan in advance to minimize these risks. Train your volunteer team on how their actions can help protect your animal shelter or rescue. Here are five things your animal shelter needs to know before attending a special event:

  1. Does the event align with your mission? Look at the mission or goal of the event.  Does their goal align with your mission? If the two do not align, the event is not in your best interest.  Attending an event that does not promote your mission, leaves you open to negative publicity or loss of a positive reputation.
  2. Read the contract. Most event organizers require you to comply with rules and an agreement to become an exhibitor. Make sure you read the contract or agreement to determine if you can meet these requirements. Common event guidelines include set-up and tear down times, proof of insurance, vaccine requirements for animals, and expectations for how you present yourself during the event. If you are unable to meet the requirements outlined in the agreement do not register as an exhibitor.  You risk a negative impact to your animal shelter or rescue if you attend and do not follow the guidelines.
  3. What can go wrong? Prior to attending an event, make a list of all the potential risks. Risks include animals getting loose, volunteers not showing, animals injuring attendees or volunteers.  Once you have a list of possibilities, create a proactive plan that identifies how you will minimize the potential for these.  For example, one significant risk is an animal jumping on an attendee and scratching that individual.  A plan to keep that from occurring includes making sure volunteers are assisting the attendees while talking to, petting and playing with the animals.
  4. Choose the right animals. Choosing the right animals to take is a key in minimizing the risk of injury to attendees. Your goal is to increase adoptions by attending the event.  Animals that have just recently entered your care may not be a good fit.  Choose animals that can handle social situations and interaction with strangers.  Animals that are skittish or easily scared have unpredictable behaviors and should remain at the shelter or in their foster home during events.
  5. Choose the right volunteer team. Volunteers who attend the event need to be knowledgeable of your animal shelter or rescue, your mission and how to present themselves during an event. If you choose to send new volunteers, make sure you pair them with an experienced volunteer that understands adoption event logistics and your expectations.

Adoption and special events are a powerful way to educate and involve your community with your shelter.  Follow these steps before attending an event to create a positive experience for all involved.

 

What is (TNR) Trap-Neuter-Return?
TNR or Trap Neuter Return is widely accepted as the most successful method for reducing free roaming and feral cat populations in a given area. Feral cats can quickly populate an area creating a number of hazards for local community residents and wildlife alike. The cats compete for resources and generally have a poor quality of life due to fighting over food and shelter, and overpopulation.
TNR uses live harmless traps to capture the cats without harming them or causing them additional stress. The cats are then transported to a veterinary clinic where they are treated for medical issues, desexed and ear tipped. Some TNR programs also vaccinate cats while they are in the care of a veterinary medical professional to keep rates of feline infectious diseases to a minimum. Once they are awake and healthy, the cats are released back into their colony area.
The ear tip allows volunteers in the area to see immediately if a cat has been sterilized already to avoid bringing the same cat twice to a clinic. The cat can be released and the trap can be reset to hopefully catch a cat that has not been through the program.
Trap neuter return is more successful than trap and kill because simply removing the colony as a whole will allow new feral cats to move into the space, creating the same set of problems you were facing before. TNR allows cats to stay in their home colony area without reproducing and creating more kittens, thus keeping the population down.

Shelters are homes to many animals seeking their forever home. However, before animals are ever adopted out of the shelter adoptive parents should be offered a human education program offered by your shelter. This type of program can help new future pet parents be the best that they can be to their new furry soon to be pals. However, humane educations program should also be offered to schools to by shelters to help educate children at young ages about the equal rights all living creatures on this earth deserve.
The Benefits of Shelters Offering Humane Education Programs
1. Humane education programs teach pet parents to care for their companions in a responsible manner.
2. The program can help people understand the consequences of being irresponsible when it comes to their pets.
3. Humane Education programs can encourage the value of all living things in people who need to develop a more humane nature towards living being.
4. The program can teach people how animals can be motivational tools to help teach others how to grow in life.
5. Helps teach people how to care for abused animals properly.
6. Can educate people on how to stop and prevent animal abuse from occurring.
7. Teaches people the services animals can provide to the ill and disabled.
8. Offering a humane education program can teach people how to be loving, caring and respectful to all creatures upon the planet.
9. Programs such as this can help teach people empathy as well as how to socialize with living beings in a proper manner.
End Notes for the Benefits of Offering Humane Education Programs to People
The benefits of offering a humane education program are countless and necessary for developing pet owners and human beings, that are more kind, respectful and loving to all living creatures upon the planet. Without programs such as these, people who do not understand how to be towards other living beings could potentially develop a behavior that is cold and senseless towards other upon this planet.
In fact, people who never develop skills on how to be humane are more capable of developing abusive behaviors and becoming criminals. If offering humane education programs through shelters and at schools creates more humane human beings than these types of classes should not just be offered, but should be mandatory to help all humans develop a more humane nature so our planet can be a happier peaceful place to live upon.

What is Backyard Breeding?

February 15, 2015

It is common these days to see more and more backyard breeding. This type of breeding causes puppy mills to exist and the population of animals on the streets and in shelters to grow. Putting a stop against backyard breeding is the only way to control these unnecessary situations for animals.
What exactly is backyard breeding?
Backyard breeding is a term used to describe humans who breed animals without the legal license to do so. The reason it is done is to create animals, which can be sold off to earn and income, or to create an animal with a certain temperament for dog fighting purposes. However, when animals cannot be sold off they are released onto the streets or into the wild to make more room for the next rounds of backyard breeds.
What kinds of animals are used in backyard breeding?
Horses: All types of horse breeds are used in backyard breeding to create horses for slaughtering purposes. Backyard breeders that can turn out a lot of horse meat will sell it off in hopes of earning an extremely large sum of money for living purposes or continuing on with the breeding.
Dogs: Pitbulls are some of the most common dogs breed with other dogs by backyard breeders to create pups with temperaments that are easy to train for fighting purposes. However, other dog breeds are used in backyard breeding as well just to create puppies, which can easily be sold off in puppy mills or the side of the street simply to make an income.
Cats: All types of cats are used in backyard breeding to create kitten litters, which are sold off easily due to cuteness to earn some extra money. Most cats breed in backyards end up with all kinds of horrible health conditions and tend to be put onto the street if they cannot be sold off in time before the next breeding season begins.
Rabbits: All kinds of rabbits are breed often in backyards to produce tons of kit litters, which are sold off during the Easter holiday with ease, or for meat selling purposes.
End Notes for Backyard Breeding
All animals desire respect and kindness, which means backyard-breeding needs to stop. If you know of backyard breeding going on, report it immediately to animal patrol and prevent more animals from becoming homeless, abused and used for other purposes other than sharing love.

________________________________________

Whether your dog is small or large, getting into stuff is their specialty and that includes chocolate, but what do you do if your dog gets into chocolate? Well, immediate medical treatment is usually required since chocolate contains a toxin known as theobromine, which is a stimulant beneficial to humans, but not to dogs. In fact, if chocolate gets into your pup’s system side effects could occur almost immediately.
Side Effects that Occur in Dogs that Have Eaten Chocolate
• Heart Rhythm Problems
• Central Nervous System Failure
• Muscle Tremors
• Seizures
• Coma
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting
• Excessive Urinating
• Hyperactivity
• Balance Problems
• Increased Thirst due to Dehydration
• Inflammation of the Pancreatic
• Possible Death
What amounts of chocolate are consider toxicity levels for dogs?
The amounts of chocolate needed to cause toxicity in dogs is around three milk chocolate bars, but chocolate bars made from pure dark chocolate are even more poisonous to pups. In fact, baking cocoa and bars contain 70% more theobromine that a milk chocolate bar, which makes it deadly to dogs who consume even an ounce. If you suspect your pup has gotten into a considerable about of chocolate it is wise to call your vet for immediate help.
Treatments Prescribed to Help with Chocolate Poisoning in Dogs
The treatments prescribed by a veterinarian to help aid in chocolate poisoning are simple. The doctor will prescribe a pill that induces vomiting or use an IV to provide fluids to flush the toxin out of the dogs body. Sometimes charcoal medications are prescribes if large amounts of chocolate have been in your dogs system for more than two hours to help relief a racing heart and to prevent seizures and other possible side effects from occurring or worsening.
Chocolate Foods to Keep Out of Your Dogs Reach
• Chocolate Bars
• Hershey Kisses
• Chocolate Ice Cream
• Chocolate Cakes
• Chocolate Milk
• Chocolate Frosting
• Hot Cocoa
• Chocolate Chips
• Baking Chips
• Chocolate Pies
• Fudges
• Homemade Fudge
• Chocolate Sauces
• Hot Fudge
• Chocolate Chip Pancakes
• Cocoa Based Cereals
• Cocoa Powder
End Notes for Dogs Consuming Chocolate
The best way to prevent your pup from ever consuming chocolate is to keep it up and out of the way. If your eating it and drop some on the floor, pick it up immediately. Remember, large amounts of chocolate can cause deaths in dogs so if you suspect your dog has chocolate poisoning the best thing to do is seek veterinarian help immediately.

Valentine’s Day is not just for humans. This holiday that celebrates love is for animals too. Some of the animals in your local area that could use a bit of love, compassion and attention this Valentine’s Day are the ones in shelters without homes yet. If your wondering how you can help the animals in shelters in a special way this Valentine’s Day the ideas below should help get you off to a good start.
Offer Heart Shaped Treats
Valentine’s Day, is the holiday of love. Little hearts help symbolize the holiday. To help treat some of the dogs and cats in the shelter you can bring some heart shaped treats to them. Even if you cannot find heart, shaped dog and cat treats, you could also pick up regular cat and dog treats instead.
Pampering the Animals
On Valentine’s Day, some humans enjoy some pampering at a spa to help achieve good looks for a romantic evening with a partner. For cats and dogs, pampering is necessary to for showing love and compassion. Why not, give dogs and cats baths, clip their claws and trim their nails, brush their furry coats and help these animals look sharp to help increase their chances of becoming adopted. Nothing would be better for shelter animals than to find their loving forever home on Valentine’s Day.
Create Loving Greeting Cards
Valentine’s Day is all about love and one of the ways you can show love to others as well as to the animals at the shelter is by creating a Valentine’s Day backdrop, taking photos of each animal in the shelter and creating greeting cards. Do not forget to place a loving description of each animal you take a photo of on the back of the greeting card to help increase their chances of adoption. Once the greeting cards are made, mail them out to random people in your local community to get the word out about the animals staying at the shelter. Who knows, maybe you will reach someone’s heart and help an amazing animal get adopted.
End Notes for Valentine’s Fun at the Shelter
Celebrating Valentine’s Day at the shelter is easy, and with the ideas above you should know how to start the day with some fun for the shelter staff, volunteers and the animals temporarily staying there. Just remember, to spread lots of love to those furry pals too.