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.

Foster parents are a vital part of your volunteer organization. They provide a safe haven and care for animals in need. Most animal shelters or animal rescues utilize volunteer handbooks. These handbooks identify how the volunteer program works and typically include a section dedicated to foster parent volunteers.
Foster parents have a unique set of responsibilities. Address these responsibilities in a manual created specifically for your foster parents. Make sure you include these 5 key components.

  1. Welcome Letter. Include a letter welcoming the new foster home to your animal rescue group. Include statistics illustrating how many animals you help, the number of foster homes in your network, and why they are important.
  2. Frequently Asked Questions. Address FAQ’s in the front of the manual. These address common concerns for foster parents immediately. Where do the foster animals come from? Can I foster a dog with a full-time job or with no fence? How long does each animal need care? How do I adopt my foster dog? These are just a few samples – include the questions you hear most often.
  3. Requirements. Address requirements up front. What steps do fosters need to take to “dog proof” their home? What supplies do they need to purchase? What activities are not acceptable for the animals?
  4. Expectations. What activities do you expect the foster to perform daily, weekly, and monthly? Walking/exercises, training, socializing, grooming expectations, and adoption family appointments need to be outlined in this section.
  5. Policies and Procedures. Animals are unpredictable. Address what steps fosters need to take in certain situations. Who do they contact if the animal bites them, bites somebody else, shows signs of aggression, or gets sick or injured? Outline when veterinary services need contacted and how the foster parent can help at home.

Creating a strong network of foster homes is the key to successful adoptions. Manage expectations and requirements upfront with a foster manual.

Fostering an animal who needs guidance and love is rewarding. You’re literally saving a life when you offer support and structure for an animal in need.  Volunteer foster parents need to have the desire, of course, but should also consider the responsibilities that come with the rewards.

Before you decide to foster, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your home need any modification?  Think about what needs your chosen animal may have.  Is there enough space?  Do your family members or other pets have any allergies or intolerances that may be an issue?  Is your home safe for a healthy animal of your choice?
  • What kind of foster do you want?  Some people are amazing at behavioral training, some do better with older or physically diminished animals, and some would be best at just offering love and shelter.  Be honest with yourself about what you and your family can handle.
  • Will your insurance cover it?  In the case of large dogs, for instance, an extra insurance rider may be required to protect you from liability, even if the dog hasn’t been a behavioral risk previously.  Double-check your homeowner’s policy.
  • How much financial risk can you assume?  How much you’re responsible for is largely up to the organization through which you’re fostering.  Items like vet bills and ID tags are sometimes covered; additional food or litter may not.  Find out ahead of time what you may have to cover to avoid any surprises.
  • Do you have the time?  Because many fosters have special needs, they can require a bit more love and attention than other pets.  Give some thought to how much time you have for training and other needs before you decide.
  • How good are you at letting go?  Often, the hardest part of being a foster family is having to say goodbye when an adoption goes through.  The beautiful thing about fostering is that it’s temporary.  The worst thing about it is also that it’s temporary.  Make sure you and your family are able to let go when the time comes.

When you’re comfortable with your answers, the application process for fostering is outlined on most organizations’ websites or can be explained by staff volunteer coordinators.  There’s generally a home visit, a check of your references, and an agreement to be signed.

Once approved, it’s just a matter of waiting for an animal that needs your love and care.

If you are truly an animal lover then your passion will help you succeed in your quest to help people adopt homeless animals.
1. Contact local veterinary clinics that specialize in pets. You should contact them via email and telephone. A personal visit with a simple black and white flyers that bullet points your basic info is always good. Please be brief, fierce and memorable in describing your animal shelter and your available pets to adopt. Since veterinarians are involved in helping pet owners care for their beloved pets, they know who is looking to adopt and are often a first point of contact. In the unfortunate passing of a pet, the bereaved will often want to eventually replace that animal with a new one after an appropriate period of mourning.
2. Consider a free post on Craigslist that includes pictures. Go to: http://www.craigslist.com and under the headline “Community” click on “Pets.” It is easy and simple to post a picture and a brief description of the available homeless pet. Anything that relates to revealing the animal’s personality is especially helpful in differentiating from other ads.
3. Post pictures and descriptions on your animal shelter’s Facebook page that clearly call the pet lover to action. Adopting a pet is an emotional decision. It is best to keep your posting cute and brief.
4. Ensure that the signage near your animal shelter is adequate. If you are located near a major highway is it easy to find your location? You can also increase your exposure by adding small plastic signs that are quick to install by driving them into the ground on the edge of roads near major intersections. Be careful that you do not violate any signage rules on your area. Typically areas where you see real estate and political signs are already approved. You may need to get a permit. Contact your local city office regarding rules and regulations.
5. Participate in local networking opportunities. There are many ways to remind your local public that your animal shelter is well run and has adoptable pets. Join your local Chamber of Commerce, Lions, Rotary, religious institution, Optimists Club, FFA Alumni boosters, etc. The list of organizations really depends on your personal interests and availability for meetings.
Best of luck in your quest. Every homeless animal will find a home if you engage in a systematic plan.

Having good homes is an important aspect of running a pet shelter that handles adoptions. Going to a foster home allows animals to adjust to the challenges they will face when they’re adopted by their forever home. Knowing how to choose the volunteers that will make the experience positive for the pet is critical.

They Need to Be Experienced

Anyone who wants to provide a foster home for any of the animals in your shelter needs to have experience with that type of pet. Ask lots of questions about what they did with their pets, how they handled training issues, and what they learned from the pet.

Make Sure they’ve had a Family Discussion

The lives of every person in the house will be impacted by their new foster pet. During the interview process, you need to make sure that everyone is on board, and ready to handle whatever challenges they encounter.

Tour the Home

As the director of the animal shelter, the pet’s safety and well being is your responsibility. You need to make sure the foster home doesn’t pose an immediate threat to the animal’s life. Just because you have identified areas that cause you concern, you shouldn’t automatically dismiss the families application. Discuss the situation. If they’re willing to make some changes, it’s a positive sign that they will be good foster parents.

Discuss How they Plan to Handle Training and Discipline

Every person who turns in a foster application will have their own ideas about training and discipline. You need to make sure those ideas align with yours. Find out if the applicant is willing to go through a training program to learn how to deal with the challenges fostering a rescue animal can create.

Be Prepared to Part

The hardest part of the fostering process is the fact that the time will come when the foster parent and pet have to say good-bye. It’s very important that you make sure the families who volunteer for the process are prepared to part. If the entire process has been positive, it won’t be long before they’re ready to take on another pet who’s in need of fostering.

Once you have selected a family to foster a pet, it’s important that you stay in regular communication with them.

If you have decided it is time to add a four-legged or feathered family member to your home, there is a lot to consider. After all, there are a lot of choices in pets with a variety of amount of care needed.

Perhaps the easiest pet to care for is a fish, or a few fish. Although they do not need a lot of attention, they do need daily care. At a minimum, the bowl or aquarium must be kept clean and at the proper temperature for the species you choose and they need daily feeding.

Whether choosing a pet for yourself or for the family with a child in charge of its care, it is important that an adult be able to oversee the care and make sure that your he or she has food, water, and is cleaned up after. Maybe you will choose a hamster to be kept in the kid’s room. That is great, but make sure that your child is giving your new pet fresh food and water daily as well as a clean living area.

Dogs and cats are the most popular choices in pets. Adopting from a shelter or a rescue agency is a wonderful way to add to the family while rescuing a life. But, make sure you are ready for the responsibility of this new family member. It is a long-term, important commitment that should not be taken lightly. Cats and dogs can live 15 to 20 years. They not only need proper daily care, but also companionship and attention. Shelters are full of these former pets of those who have not taken their responsibilities seriously.

It is not necessary for pets to breed. In fact, they are happier and healthier just being pets. For dogs and cats, it is best to neuter or spay. For smaller pets such as hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits, one can be kept alone or you can get two of the same sex for their like companionship.

Before obtaining any new pets, research what will fit into your family and lifestyle best. Consider whether you may have any allergies that could be triggered by a new pet. Think about how much time you have to spend and just what you expect from a new pet. Pick wisely, and prepare to have your life enriched by your new family member.