Through your animal shelter’s or rescue’s services, there are numerous opportunities for volunteers to donate their time and help animals in need. Whether it is managing paperwork, taking dogs for a walk, or making sure the kittens and cats are well cared for, there is also a chance for volunteer injury. When injuries occur, you risk losing valuable volunteers, being responsible for medical expenses, or coming face to face with a lawsuit.

All animal shelters and rescues need volunteers, but, unfortunately, not all of them have policies, procedures, or the right insurance in place to protect their mission. You can change that today by taking the following steps to minimize accidents and protect your volunteers.

Steps to minimize volunteer accidents:

  1. Identify areas of concern.

Review past volunteer injuries to identify problem areas that need to be addressed. Once you have those listed, observe any areas or activities that cause injury. Look for ways to prevent injuries and create a list of ideas to implement.

Alternatively, you can also observe all activities happening in your animal shelter or rescue to look for other potential areas of concern. Create a list of ideas that can help streamline and eliminate volunteer injuries.

  1. Document expectations.

Take your list of ideas and create documented procedures and policies that clearly explain your expectations. These can include the proper ways to care for animals, lift heavy objects, transport animals, and how often volunteers should take breaks throughout the day.

  1. Train volunteers.

Schedule mandatory training sessions for volunteers to attend. Explain the areas of concern, steps you took to review the processes, and new policies and procedures. Give volunteers time to review the procedures and ask questions so they gain a clear idea of your new expectations. Be open to hearing additional ideas or concerns since they are on the front line in these scenarios every day.

  1. Eliminate hazards.

After you have your volunteer team on board, work together to remove hazards like excessive boxes or wiring to prevent falls.

What happens if a volunteer is injured?

Even with a documented approach, volunteer injuries can still happen. bites, scratches, falls, and lifting injuries are extremely common in animal shelters and rescues. The best way to protect your shelter or rescue is to make sure you have volunteer accident insurance.

Volunteer accident insurance is similar to worker’s compensation insurance for employees. It pays costs associated with an injury that occurs while a volunteer is working for your animal shelter or rescue. The main difference is it pays costs that their health insurance doesn’t cover like deductible expenses.

Where can you find volunteer accident insurance?

Insurance agents that specialize in nonprofit or animal shelter insurance can provide you with a quote for volunteer accidents.

Investing in volunteer accident insurance shows volunteers that you care about their safety and well-being. By showing you care, you are more likely to retain valuable volunteers and recruit new volunteers after an injury occurs.

How can you be a great animal shelter volunteer?  Follow these five steps and you will become one.

1) You must be dedicated to the health and welfare of the animals you take care of in the shelter by giving them your love and kindness, showing them you care by taking care of them when they are sick and feeling left out, being their friend when they have lost their friend.

2) Make sure that they are fed and watered as per the instruction for the animal.  If an animal requires a special diet make sure that they only get the food that is recommended for that animal.

3) Take the time to play and walk with the animals.  Some animals require more vigorous work outs to keep them happy, others only require some petting and attention.  Take the time to know the animals you work with.

4) Once you know the animals read what other volunteers have said about the animals in their write-ups.  Keep track of what you notice about the animals and add your own information about each and every one.  Some of the items you can keep track of are:

  • How well they respond to voice command while playing
  • How well they walk around people and other animals
  • How well they play with other animals
  • Weather or not they adapt to having animals of other species around them (cat and dogs)
  • Weather or not they are approachable by other people

5) You must always be there at your appointed time because the animals depend upon you to be there.  An exceptional volunteer will also make time in their holidays to make sure that the animals are well taken care of.

So if you are thinking of becoming an animal shelter volunteer then the five items above will give you a clear idea of what is needed.  This is really what any animal needs weather or not it is at a shelter, in the home, or a stray.  They all need love and attention.


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.


If you are running a shelter for animals, you need to have a humane approach for the animals that are under your care. Shelters are full of animals, usually pet cats and dogs that have been relinquished by their owners, rescued from streets or simply lost and brought to the shelter. They may even have a large population of strays. Animal Control is in charge of all work related to animals, whether these are accident cases, abused animals or infectious animals. It is also empowered to check on documentation of pets.

Your shelter needs to follow all the regulations in force as well as make sure that you have sufficient staff and infrastructure to handle the animals in your care. It is best that you get the right insurance policy that will cover you against any unforeseen eventuality.

The Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program provides you with the right insurance solutions that are tailored to your needs, while keeping your shelter, your animals and your workers protected, according the rules of Animal Control.  As there are many different insurance programs that will cover you against damages, you may require coverage under various categories, whether it is general or professional liability or property or worker’s compensation insurance. If you are not certain about what kind of insurance you need, get in touch with Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program immediately.

There are many great funraisers that can help your community raise money for the local animal shelter. The poor beasts that live at the shelter need continuous care, food, and attention. There is often too little to go around, and every little bit helps keep the shelter running smoothly. Every animal deserves a shot at a great life. The sad dogs and cats that enter the shelter are often abandoned with serious medical conditions. Unfortunetly, many are put down because the cost to heal them is too high. Even healthy animals are put to sleep because of overcrowding. However, all that can change with a fundraiser that helps keep every animal happy and healthy until they find a permanent home.

A Benefit Dinner

Organize a benefit at a swankly location in town. Ask for donations for a silent auction that will raise even more moneuy. You can even try to get a local celebrity to say a speech about their love for animals. This could attract more preople to the benefit. Hire the best band and caterer in town to keep people entertained and satsified all nightr long. Offer a cash bar where people can donate whatever they like to help keep the costs of the animal shelter down. If you get the alcohal dontated, then every penny made on top will go directly to the shelter.

Your city hosts a plethora of benefits; therefore, you need to think of a way to make your stand out. It is for a good cause, and most people love any excuse for a party. However, a unique theme could make it even better. For example, a masquerade never goes out of style. You could even host a Monte Carlo themed event with gambling tables all around. This will be a night that nobody forgets, and it will raise an incredible amount of money for the shelter if done right.

The Great Raffle

A raffle is one of the easiest fundraisers around because it costs very little to pull off. All you have to do is buy a big ticket item. The prize could even be donated if you ask the right people. All you will have to pay for is tickets and advetising. This is much less than organizing an event, and it could raise the same amount of money too. Hopefully, a combination of these ideas will help the animal shelter.

There is much joy to be had while running an animal shelter. Finding animals forever homes on a regular basis can be hard work, but is very rewarding. However, for all the things that can go right in your shelter, there are many others that can go wrong. That is when a liability waiver comes in handy. Liability waivers can save you a lot of headache and financial hardships. Here are a few examples of what a liability waiver can protect you and your shelter from.

1. Dog Bites.

Dogs are the most sought after animal in a shelter, and the majority of visitors in your shelter will likely be looking to add one to their family. When perusing the dogs, the visitors may put their hands in the dogs cage to initiate contact. While many dogs will be docile and friendly, others may perceive this as a threat and bite the stranger’s hand. This can be problematic because injury or disease can happen as a result. If that visitor signed a liability waiver though, then you are clear of any blame.

2. Cat Scratches.

Cats are another animal that is highly sought after in a shelter, and chances are your shelter houses many. One of the cats in your shelter may come into contact with many visitors in a day, and may scratch them. While a cat scratch, or bite may seem harmless at first, it can have lasting consequences. A cat scratch can lead to a nasty bacterial infection known as cat scratch fever. A visitor who contracts cat scratch fever from one of your shelter cats may hold you liable. However, a liability waiver would say different.

3. Slips, Falls. Etc…

Even if your shelter animals are well contained and on their best behavior, there is still many things that can go wrong. A dog may urinate on the ground, and someone could slip in it. The puddle may have gone unnoticed by the shelter staff until this accident occurred, so a wet floor sign didn’t get put out. Liability waivers can include a clause for this situation, and any other non animal related incident.

Zoonotic diseases, those that can be transferred from animals to humans, should always be kept in mind when working with animals.  Although there aren’t many of them, some can be life threatening if not recognized in time.

Perhaps the most feared zoonotic disease is rabies.  In animals the symptoms include changes in personality (ie a wild animal appears to want affection, or a domestic animal, usually very docile suddenly becomes aggressive), lack of fear, inability to swallow.  It is 100% fatal if not treated in time. If there is any question as to whether an animal you encountered was rabid, seek medical treatment immediately.

Most other zoonotic diseases are parasitic in nature.  These include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Worms – these intestinal parasites are transmitted through feces or contact with soil or other items that have come in contact with infected feces. There are several types of worms, including hookworms and roundworms that are common in both domestic and wild species.  All contact with fecal matter should be avoided.
  • Cryptosporidiosis – this is a parasite that lives in water.  It is most often contracted by exposure to water that has been soiled by fecal matter. The symptoms of a cryptosporidiosis include frequent bouts of watery diarrhea, stomach cramping and if untreated, life threatening dehydration
  • Lyme disease – although the organism that causes this disease is not a parasite, the means of transmission is. Lyme disease is carried by ticks that infect their host when they bite them. Symptoms of Lyme Disease in humans include fever, general malaise and a rash at the site of infection.  Sometimes the symptoms are minimal, but chronic, untreated Lyme Disease can lead to organ damage.
  • Toxoplasmosis – this disease is not parasitic. It is most often associated with the handling of cat litter, but the fact is that any warm blooded animal can carry it and the handling of raw meat has been known to transmit it.  In most cases of human infection the disease is almost asymptomatic, however, pregnant women need to be especially careful when handling animal feces as the disease can cause great damage to a developing fetus.

If you suspect you are suffering from an illness contracted through contact with animals be sure to inform your doctor when seeking treatment.  Zoonotic diseases may not be their first thought and being unaware may lead to misdiagnoses or delay in receiving proper treatment.

Insurance can be one of the most expensive aspects of business from animal welfare organizations. Many go without the coverage they need because they are facing budget cuts or need the funding they do have for other needs, such as animal shelters for all their critters. The team members at AWOIP, LLC (Animal Welfare Organization Insurance Program, LLC), are the go-to folks when it comes to securing insurance for animal shelters. Some types of insurance policies that they can offer are:

  • General Liability Insurance
  • Volunteer Accident & Health Insurance
  • Professional Liability Insurance
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance
  • Commercial Property Insurance
  • Special Event/ Fundraiser Insurance

But to have insurance for the shelters your organization uses, you need to be able to afford those shelters. When funding and donations do not cover these expenses, there is another way you can get the money you need. Grants for animal shelters are abundant, if you know where to look and how to go about getting them.

Many big name environmental organizations and animal welfare groups offer grants and funding help for other smaller groups who are struggling to do the same work. You could look at any local groups that are doing a similar work and see if you could form a partnership with them. They can provide the help you need and offer a unique perspective and they might also be able to recommend places you can look for grants for animal shelters and people you can talk to get some more funding.

State and federal organizations offer grants for any number of things. Chances are you can find grants for animal shelters simply by looking online. You might also want to search based on the type of facility you are. Some grants for animal shelters are base don the type of animals you work with so you could possibly find a grant that fits you perfectly and not have a lot of other competition for the money.

Another option you have is to reach out to people whom you know support the work you are doing. Many well known actors, celebrities, and iconic individuals support animal welfare. It does not hurt to reach out to these individuals and see if they might be willing to help you with the funding you need. Grants for animal shelters can be found, it just takes a unique approach and new way of looking at it.

Volunteer insurance is available to animal rescues and shelters as protection for their volunteers. It covers volunteers from injuries that are incurred while doing their volunteer duty. It provides peace of mind to the rescue owner because it gives protection to both the volunteer and the rescue organization. Volunteers can feel secure because they know that if they get injured they will be covered and not subject to costly medical bills from their volunteer work. This helps volunteers feel secure in doing their job and in turn makes them happier and more confident.

Rescues are always working on a tight budget and all it would take is one accident or lawsuit to shut the whole operation down. If a volunteer at your organization were to suffer some kind of accident that their insurance wouldn’t cover, would you be prepared? What if there is an injury and you are sued, are you prepared for that? If you have had a hard time getting insurance for your rescue then call us. Volunteer insurance is not something that regular insurance companies deal with and it’s even possible they don’t know it exists. Companies that do know how to deal with animal rescues and shelters know exactly what you need and can make recommendations of how much insurance to buy.

Volunteer insurance can be a comforting factor for volunteers. When you tell them that you have an insurance policy that covers them at your rescue you are letting them know you are running a professional organization and that you really appreciate the work that they do.  A volunteer who knows you have taken the time to get insurance for them will be more motivated to work and that translates into better care for the animals and for the guests of your rescue.

Take the time to explore what volunteer insurance can do for your organization. The peace of mind for both the owner and volunteers at the rescue is well worth the cost. If you have been searching for insurance for your rescue and encountering dead ends then dealing with a company that specializes in volunteer insurance could be the solution to your problem.

Protect Your Volunteers

October 1, 2013

Accident & Health insurance provides cover in the event a volunteer is injured while working for an organization in an official capacity.  This coverage usually pays medical expenses that the volunteer’s health insurance will not cover.

An accident & health insurance policy will provide coverage for the policy holder who becomes ill, injured or in worst case scenario dies from an accident that occurred while volunteering for an organization. This type of policy is sometimes called accident and sickness insurance.

A typical accident health insurance policy might cover expenses for most or all of the costs for any necessary surgery. Accident and Health insurance might cover doctor’s visits, prescription drugs and medical procedures. Some insurance policies will cover loss of income due to injury or sickness such as critical illness, cancer and disabilities.

It is usual for the policyholder to pay a monthly premium for the coverage. It is important to note some insurers insist this premium must not be subsidized by one’s employer or voluntary organization. In other instances group insurance can be purchased. In addition, the policy holder might have to pay for certain procedures not covered by the policy.

In the USA, lots of people acquire accident and health insurance through employer benefits; this is because it is very expensive to purchase on one’s own. Conversely, many people have group insurance to provide medical coverage to keep costs down.