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.

Running a successful animal welfare organization is a high-demanding job. One critical component of making sure things run smoothly in an animal welfare organization is risk management. Risk management tools are often pushed aside to oversee other vital components of animal welfare like animal intake, volunteer training, compliance, animal adoptions, foster homes, and fundraising efforts. Risk management plans are important because they help organizations identify potential risks, minimize those risks, and set expectations for responding appropriately when risks do occur.

Good News
The most effective risk management plans focus on making risk management a part of your organization’s culture. With a strong on-boarding process and proper implementation, creating a risk management plan doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Follow these eight steps to simplifying the process and make risk management a priority in your animal welfare organization.

Steps to Take

  1. Utilize your volunteers. Volunteers donate their time to your animal welfare organization because they WANT to help the organization fulfill its mission. Don’t try to hold on to tasks that you can delegate to others. Recruit volunteers to serve on a risk management committee that takes on the last six steps of this plan.
  2. Brainstorm potential risks. Your volunteer committee is responsible for brainstorming every potential risk you face on a daily basis – animal bites, visitor slip and falls, volunteer injuries, etc.
  3. Match existing tools. Once they have a complete list, they need to review your existing risk management tools to see if you are addressing certain risks already. Common tools utilized by animal welfare organizations include volunteer application, adoption waivers, foster home guidelines, etc.
  4. Identify a need for new. The most important part of the committees’ responsibilities is to identify a need for new or updated tools. Are the existing tools, policies, and procedures strong enough? Is your organization missing an important item?
  5. Create new tools. Once they identify a need, they need to find acceptable risk management tools to fill the gaps. It is important they understand these new policies and procedures in their entirety and they provide you with a report on their recommendations.
  6. Educate your volunteer team. Schedule training for the committee to educate volunteers on the new policies and procedures. Review the tool, the benefits, and the expectations of the volunteers. Test the volunteer’s knowledge afterward to make sure they fully understand the changes.
  7. Audit the effectiveness. Have the committee schedule a future date to audit the new policy and procedures’ effectiveness. Did your organization experience a decrease in incidents? Do you need to make new updates? Continue to review all risk management tools on a yearly basis.

Visit our website for sample animal welfare risk management tools.

With rising populations in the pet communities, it is nearly impossible that these animals will all have good homes.  When a pet becomes lost, or homeless and abandoned, animal shelters and animal sanctuaries both look to different ways of solving this issue.

Animal shelters are facilities that take in stray pets.  Their goal in doing this is to keep pets off the street.  Homeless pets are looked at as a public health concern.  For this reason, an animal shelter will take in these pets and attempt to find them a good home.  Animals that are taken in will be given a temperament test to determine which ones would be good for adoption.  The ones who are deemed not good candidates for adoptions are put to sleep.  The ones who are deemed good for adoption will attempt to find a new home.  They are given a certain amount of time to find a new home.  Once this time limit is exceeded, the animal will be put to sleep.  With rising numbers of animals in need of homes, and shelter populations continuously rising, some of these animals will only be given mere days to find a new home.

Animal sanctuaries are similar to an animal shelter in the sense that they will take these stray animals off of the street.  However, an animal sanctuary will not attempt to find these pets new homes.  Adoptions do still occur; they are just not the primary goal.  Instead, they will be taken to a facility to be cared for and protected while living out their lives in full, until dying of natural causes.  Animal sanctuaries are non-profit organizations that put the lives and well being of these animal inhabitants above all else.  With the animals well being and lives being the primary concern, animal sanctuaries hope to raise awareness to the general public and change the way people treat these animals.

Many people debate about whether an animal shelter is humane.  Animal sanctuaries provide an alternative to this unrelenting issue.  Animal populations are rising for whatever causes, many will find themselves without good home.  The major difference is the regard to which these animals are treated.  Shelters will find homes for those whom they can, but to do so they also have to make room for new additions.  Animal sanctuaries will simply give all these animals the life and care that they are entitled to.