Volunteers are one of the cornerstones to running your animal shelter or rescue successfully.  You rely on them to help with day to day needs, care for the animals, organize events, spread the word about your mission, and be passionate about the great work they are doing. Did you know they are one of your biggest risks?  Volunteers are human and unpredictable in their actions.  To successfully manage their actions and minimize risk, implement an official volunteer program.  Here are the categories your program requires:

Volunteer Handbook

Volunteer handbooks contain valuable information about the animal shelter or rescue.  They provide new volunteers with:

  1. Background information
  2. Mission and Vision
  3. Application process
  4. Training expectations
  5. Behavior expectations
  6. Volunteer waiver
  7. Organization policies

Require new volunteers to review the handbook prior to completing a volunteer application.  This information sets the precedence for expectations during their time volunteering for your organization.

Volunteer Waivers

Volunteer waivers are typically included as part of the handbook.  They are vital for animal shelters and rescues to have in place.  A strong waiver includes:

  1. Release of liability for injury and bites
  2. Acceptance that injuries are not covered under a worker’s compensation policy
  3. Acceptance of policies and procedures
  4. Emergency contact information
  5. Release to contact to provide medical help or attention if needed

Volunteer waivers are a safety precaution. Volunteers may still choose to file a lawsuit if they believe the animal shelter or rescue is responsible for an injury.  Waivers are part of your defense in court but should not be your only defense.  Work with your legal counsel to draft a waiver that best suits your animal shelter or rescue needs.

The Right Insurance

The best way to be proactive in protecting your animal shelter or rescue from financial loss as a result of a lawsuit is to purchase insurance.  There are many types of insurance you can purchase for your organization including:

  1. General Liability Insurance
  2. Professional Liability Insurance
  3. Accident & Health Insurance
  4. Director’s & Officer’s Insurance

Liability insurance protects your financial assets by paying defense and settlement costs of a covered lawsuit.   Take the time to research animal shelter insurance options today.  Purchasing insurance after a lawsuit is filed will not protect you.

Volunteer Training

Volunteer training is vital for new and existing volunteers.  Create a strong volunteer training program by answering these questions:

  1. What do you want the training to accomplish?
  2. What do your volunteers need to know?
  3. What do your volunteers already know?
  4. How do they learn best?

These answers will help you to create a valuable training program that is beneficial to both the volunteer and the organization.  Once training is completed, have your volunteers tell you what they learned and how they can implement this in their tasks.  Training is never complete and should be offered on a routine basis to volunteers.  The knowledge and education help make them valuable to your team.


During the colder months of the year, it is wise to make sure your pets have proper shelters outside to get away from chilly breezes and storms of winter. It is also important too not leave them outside on days where temperatures are below zero. The reason why is because your furry pals can actually get frostbite on their paws, ears, tails and even noses. Once frostbite occurs in your pet, proper treatment is necessary immediately. Without proper treatment your pet whether it be a dog, cat, or rabbit could lose a limb or die from the frostbit area becoming infected.
What to do if you suspect your pet has frostbite?
If you suspect your pet has a frostbite area, which will appear as pale skin that eventually turns bright red and then black if not treated properly, you should immediately begin treating it. You treat frostbit patches of skin by running them under warm water or applying a wet warm compress. However, do not rub the skin since it will cause more damage.
As soon as you have completed that step, it is important to get them to your local vet or an emergency clinic immediately for further treatment. In severe cases of frostbite, or when frostbite is left untreated, amputation of a limb or part of your pet’s skin is necessary. In rare cases, pet’s can die from frostbite if exposed to the cold to long because just like humans, pets need to be kept warm too.
What are some precautions to take once your pet has suffered from frostbite?
Anytime your pet has suffered frostbite, even if the area has healed up properly, they will always be sensitive to the cold and susceptible to frostbite again. This is because they barrier that usually protect your pet’s skin has become damaged and is no longer able to protect it like it use too. This means, your pet won’t be able to stand in the cold as long as he or she might have been able to in the past. It is also wise to place some sort of protective covering over the sensitive area before the pet goes outside.
End Notes
The best way to prevent frostbite from happening to your pet is to always provide them with warm shelters on cold days and don’t allow them to stay outside too long when the temperatures are below normal.

Stay Warm This Winter

December 4, 2014

Animals are sensitive to very cold damp weather, and just like us, need protection from bitter conditions that can seriously damage their health and well-being. In this article we’ll look at practical ways to help animals in shelters and households stay snug and warm.
If a dog’s or cat’s paw pads, ears or nose, are exposed to these raw elements, they can sustain lasting damage; and if they’re outside, or aren’t adequately protected in a dry, warm home or shelter, they can contract hypothermia or frostbite.
The shelter or home area should be roomy enough so that the animal can move about, and be free to sit or lie down comfortably. It should also be compact enough to contain the animal’s body heat. Ideally, if it’s not in a carpeted house, and is in a shelter or out-house, the flooring should be constructed so it’s several inches above the ground, otherwise it will be extremely cold to sit on. It can be covered with linoleum or plastic tiling, which is easy to keep hygienic. This can be layered with straw, or some kind of wood shavings. Old blankets, fleece, or other types of warm soft bedding could also be used; they give a sense of security, and the animals can happily curl up on or inside them. They can also keep horses dry and warm, and are essential if they’ve been body-clipped. The entrances and exits, as well as any other openings need to be covered with a strong durable sheet of commercial plastic. Unfortunately, heating costs can be difficult for animal welfare organizations to afford. Carrying out a small charity collection for spare blankets in your area is easy, and many people will have old ones that they will be happy to donate.
Give the animals water in plastic rather than metal bowls, as their tongue could stick to the metal and freeze. You should also regularly monitor the bowls to make sure that the water hasn’t turned into ice! Or if possible, buy water heaters or heated bowls. If the animals are let outside in the cold for extended periods, their bodies will lose more energy trying to stay warm, and you’ll need to give them more to eat.
Keeping animals happy and content in winter time is possible if we are resourceful, network, and get a little support from all the wonderful animal lovers in our neighborhoods.

Owning a dog comes with important responsibilities such as training for behavioral purposes, grooming care, properly feeding your friend a well-balanced diet and making sure it gets lots of tender love and care. However, most pet owners do not think about the responsibility of having dog bite liability insurance. It is important to have for a handful of reasons.
#1 Coverage of Dog Bite Damage: In the event, your dog bites someone accidentally or on purpose, the cost of damage and injury to the victim is coverage. This is good for you because you do not have to pay any out of pocket expenses when your dog attacks someone, which usually can be extremely costly.
#2 Live Where You Choose: Some states have local laws that require dog owners to have liability insure for certain breeds of dogs. If you have one of those breeds without the insurance and want to move to a certain state that does not allow certain breeds without it, you can be prevented from moving to the area you wish with your four-legged pal. Even some apartment buildings, rental homes and condos require this type of insurance in order to rent out a place for your and your pal to live happily. Without the coverage, it raises a red flag to the rental service, which could cause your rental application to be denied. After all, rental companies like to protect themselves and other renters from unnecessary chaos and damage that could potentially harm them in anyway.
#3 Coverage for Property Damage: If your furry pup for some odd reason escapes your care for a short period, you will wish you had liability insurance for it. This is especially true if it decides to take an adventure without you to dig a hole in your neighbor’s yard or garden, or decides to chew and scratch the heck out of a stranger’s favorite yard décor piece. With liability coverage, you will not have to pay out of pocket expenses to cover the cost of that damage in the event your dog is reported. We all know our dog has have their own mind and tend to make messes wherever the choice even when it is not in their own yard.
For more information on this important topic, please call AWOIP at 1-800-673-2558 or 717-630-1030 or go to are website at awoiponline.com for the dog bite liability insurance.

Planning Your Disaster Kit

February 5, 2014

When the unthinkable happens and you have to evacuate animals out of a shelter, what is the bare minimum you need to get your pets where they need to go? While disaster preparedness for animals is often aimed at the pet owner, some of the same information applies to shelters as well.

Have a Plan

One thing you need in your disaster preparedness kit is the evacuation plan. Where you evacuate to depends on what disaster could befall you.  A hurricane or a wild fire may take out a large area and may require an evacuation zone of several miles or hundreds of miles, depending on the severity. Your evacuation plan needs to have several back ups in case more than one evacuation area falls in the danger zone.

Animal  Health and Vaccination Records

Having records on all the animals is imperative to be sure that all are healthy and will not spread disease where they are going.

Collars and Leashes/ID Tags

Within your disaster preparedness for animals kit should be leashes, collars, and ID tags.  Every animal from the shelter will need some way of being identified if it gets out. Another possibility is to use ID microchips which can be read by various pet microchip readers.

Travel Crates

When evacuating a shelter, you can’t have enough travel crates and carriers. Unless your shelter already has portable cages, you should plan on having enough crates to keep the animals safe and secure.

Food and Potable Water

Carrying enough food and water for all those animals is daunting, but if you’re forced to evacuate, food and water are going to be high on the list. Depending on how bad the disaster is, you may not be able to make it out of the area in a timely fashion.  Plan on at least three to seven days worth, according to the ASPCA. These need to be split up with the transport vehicles.

Animal Emergency First-Aid Kit

You should also bring your animal first-aid kit.  No matter how many transport vehicles you have, each one should have their own first-aid kit in case they get separated.  Have a veterinarian come up with the best supplies for your kits.

Many organizations choose to have adoption events at community events or at stores such as Petco and PetSmart. These events are very important to bringing exposure to your organization and finding homes for the dogs and cats that are under your care. If your organization holds off-site adoptions, reducing the chance of injuries to the public should be one of your utmost concerns.

Injuries that could have been easily prevented can be a drain on your financial resources and raise your insurance premiums. In some cases, a history of liability claims may result in cancellation of your insurance coverage.

  • You can prevent injuries by enforcing the following policies:
  • Make sure that you have enough staff on hand to supervise the pets and the people who stop by to visit your area
  • Trim the nails of the pets for adoption before the event, if possible
  • Do not allow people to pick up or handle the animals without assistance from your staff
  • Setup your area so that all pet cages are in view in order to make sure the animals are not unduly disturbed
  • Keep small children away from the pet areas because they may be prone to placing their faces or fingers too close to the animals or teasing them If possible, have all animals up-to-date on vital vaccinations such as their rabies shot
  • Provide disinfection stations for people to clean their hands before and after visiting with the pets

By following these policies, you can prevent insurance claims from injuries received at off-site adoptions. This will help keep your insurance premiums in check and maintain a good reputation for your organization.

Does a business insurance policy cover wildlife rescue? The short answer is yes business liability insurances can cover wildlife rescue, you will need to check your policy as insurance cover varies. Policies may only give limited cover in limited situations. It is more common these days for organizations to seek out specialist wildlife rescue insurance cover to specifically cover wildlife rescue organizations and its volunteers and employees.


Summary of a typical insurance

A typical wildlife rescue insurance policy will cover any employee engaged in animal rescue on behalf the organization who holds the policy. The employee has a responsibility to act and behave in a responsible manner and take all due care.

Wildlife and rescue insurance will take into account, and in most cases, cover a member of the public who is asked by the insured to assist in the rescue of an animal. In this instance, the member of the public would be classified as one of the organizations volunteers, and therefore covered by the wildlife and rescue policy. Indeed anyone who helps your organization for a specific event will be classified as a volunteer and covered by the policy.


Common provisions

Members of the public who transport animals to a veterinarian are covered by the policy. A licensed care giver is covered by the policy. A marksman is covered by the policy providing that the marksman has a firearms license and a registered weapon. Only suitably qualified persons are covered by the policy to rescue snakes. Only persons vaccinated against lyssavirus can handle bats and be protected by wildlife rescue insurance policy. Health and safety regulations must be adhered to in relation to rescuers and the animals being rescued.

The above is only an example of what wildlife rescue insurance might cover and policies will vary from one company to another.

Your Board of Directors gives leadership and guidance to your animal welfare organization.  In return, you can protect your directors and officers against the numerous lawsuits that are filed each year, through Directors & Officers insurance.  Even frivolous allegations can be devastating to your organization.  Such legal actions can extend beyond your organization’s assets, and reach out to the Director’s personal assets as well.

Directors & Officers Insurance, also known as D&O Insurance or ‘Board Insurance’, provides liability protection for actions of the Board, or for ‘failures to act’.  Such animal shelter insurance is available through the Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program or AWOIP.

Risk management is key to any organization.  D&O insurance in one factor in the risk management puzzle.  You can talk to any of our specialists today about ways to reduce your risks and bring value to your risk management efforts.

The team at AWOIP specializes in animal shelter insurance. That’s all we do.  We know your business.  We understand the insurance needs that are unique to you.  We are also experts at obtaining the best insurance at the best prices.  Given our knowledge of shelters, rescues, humane societies, and SPCAs, combined with our expertise in the animal shelter insurance arena; there is no-one better than AWOIP for your D&O insurance needs.

Our staff is helpful, knowledgeable and courteous.  Call us now, or go to our website at www.AWOIPonline.com.  Let’s discuss your needs and see what insurance product works best for you.

Poison Proof Your Home

March 20, 2013

Every homeowner is keen on the safety of their family and the same measures should extend to your pets as well. There is need is a need to poison proof your home in order to prevent any hazards from happening. Here are some pet poison prevention tips to help you avoid instances of pet poisoning.

While different pesticides and pet drugs can be helpful in combating diseases and ensuring your pets are healthy, such medical products may pose danger to your pets. It is therefore important that you read and follow the instructions that come with the drugs you purchase before administering them to the pet. Following label directions is important as it eliminates the risk of poisoning.

If you own a pet, you should take similar measures as those you would take for children. However, you cannot educate pets on the dangers of poisonous pesticides or pills. Keeping your household product and medicinal products in a locked cabinet is important. This also involves separating your pet food products from the medicinal ones. Keeping each product in their original containers is important to avoid any confusion when administering each to the pet.

Apart from ensuring safety in storing drugs, you should also be careful by maintaining a safe environment for your pets. This is one of the most important pet poison prevention tips. Whenever you spill any insecticides or poisonous liquids in your compound or garage, you should hose down the place because pets can lick such liquids and get poisoned.

You should also get rid of plants or flowers which may be poisonous when consumed by pets. Poison traps for mice or rats may be very dangerous if consumed by your dog or cats. Trimming the grass and bushes in your compound and draining stagnant water will go a long way in getting rid of snakes and frogs.

Another way of poison proofing your home is by learning the basics of poisoning and measures which can be taken where your pet has swallowed poisonous products. Knowing some of the symptoms which pets occasion when poisoned is also helpful. You may induce vomiting using 3% hydrogen peroxide but this should be directed by a pet doctor. It is also important to keep contacts of pet poisoning experts just in case you have an emergency in future. Follow the simple pet poison prevention tips to ensure the safety of your pets.

A dog is considered to be man’s best friend. Traditionally, dogs make the perfect companion for the whole family. Still, while your dog (no matter what the breed), may be perfectly friendly and loving towards your family, incidents may arise that provoke your beloved family member. No one suspects their dog to attack others, but incidents like these are known to happen.  Unfortunately, local governments are not usually forgiving of the situation and make it difficult for families to keep their pets in situations like these. Very few people are prepared for such a situation. Many of these people do not know that dog bite insurance exists, and it can help protect their family in such a situation.
If your dog bites or attacks an individual and the bite is bad enough to require medical attention, then the hospital will report it. If they call the police, then the dog may be taken away, and will likely be put down unless you have insurance on the dog. If you have home owners or renter’s insurance, events like these are normally excluded, leaving you open to a lawsuit or loss of your dog. A victim (or the dog’s owner in some cases), may be more inclined to forgive your dog’s behavior it their expenses are covered.

Dog bite insurance can purchased to protect you and your family from events such as these. No one can ever foresee bad things happening, and when they do, it is better to be prepared. If you own a dog, then it may be in your best interest to check with your agent today, and see if you have dog bite insurance. When the unimaginable happens, you will be glad you did.