As a nonprofit animal shelter or rescue, you often times rely on volunteers to utilize their personal vehicles for transporting animals or running errands.  What many organizations do not realize is that they can still be named in a lawsuit if that volunteer is involved in a vehicle incident while doing volunteer work for the animal shelter or rescue. Since this is the case, it is important for the shelter or rescue to have proper procedures and protocols in place for volunteers using their personal vehicles.

What is The Volunteer’s Driving Record?

To understand and paint a picture of the type of driver your volunteer is, it is best get a motor vehicle record (mvr) on the driver. MVR’s will show you if they have had any past wrecks or speeding tickets and will help you identify high risk drivers.

Policy & Procedures

Proper policies and procedures will identify the do’s and don’ts of driving for the animal shelter or rescue as well include a place for the volunteer to sign that they agree to these policies and procedures.

Do’s of Driving for the Animal Shelter

1.    Always wear a seatbelt.
2.    Always follow traffic laws.
3.    Obey all traffic signs and lights.

Don’ts of Driving for the Animal Shelter

1.    Never drive recklessly.
2.    Never use a cell phone while operating the vehicle.
3.    Never transport individuals not associated with the shelter at the same time.

Is There Insurance for That?

It is true that organizations can still be named in a lawsuit if the volunteer is an accident while running shelter errands. Why? If the volunteers is transporting an animal and hits another vehicle, causing injury to the other parties, they can come back and find the organization to be at fault for those injuries. The good news is that you can add non-owned and hired auto liability insurance to your policies.  This coverage provides protection in excess of the volunteer’s personal coverage and helps protect the finances and assets of the organization.

Animals in shelters are at greater risk of carrying zoonotic diseases because of many factors, often in part because animals enter shelters without having had vaccinations and consistent veterinary care.  Roaming on streets, contact with other infected animals, and lack of sanitary conditions all carry potential risks.  Training volunteers to notice and take action when they suspect that an animal is sick will decrease the risk of spreading these diseases to humans and other animals.

Shelters should include policies and procedures for volunteers to take notice of behaviors that may signal zoonotic diseases.  Making sure that volunteers understand what to look for and what to do about it will keep risks minimal to visitors, workers, and other animals.  Workers trained to notice scratching, skin lesions, open sores, loss of hair, and other skin-related problems may be able to detect problems such as sarcoptic mange and ringworm.  Parasites such as roundworm and giardia may be treated and the spread of the disease curbed dramatically if volunteers know to isolate an infected animal right away.  Quick treatment will prevent contamination of kennels, visitor rooms, and exam areas, and will alert other workers of the need for care in handling the infected animal before it becomes a threat to humans.

Proper sanitation and cleanliness are difficult in a shelter.  Being sure that workers are especially sensitive to animals that are sick will go a long way limiting the number of humans who handle the animal, as well as the exposure of healthy animals to the illness.  Protective clothing can keep sick animals from scratching workers, and protect the worker’s skin from infected lesions and parasites.  A procedure to notify other workers of the sick animal’s status will also help volunteers understand the need for cleanliness and isolation until the animal is properly treated and cleared.  Clearly no animal shelter wants to adopt out a sick animal, or expose an adopting family to an illness  It’s well worth the time and effort to have safety procedures in place.