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Is It Insured? Pets in the Office

Is It Insured? Pets in the Office

In this world of impossible deadlines and never-ending stress, employers are looking for ways to make the work environment more pleasant for workers. One way that is becoming increasingly common is by allowing pets in the office. A study by Virginia Commonwealth University finds that office dogs actually reduce stress.

The question is, what does your insurance say about dogs or other pets in the workplace? Let’s find out.

FUN FACT: Take Your Dog To Work Day is an actual holiday! This year it falls on Friday, June 21, 2019.

Things To Consider

Before allowing dogs in your workplace, there are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you own a business that would be affected by dogs? Restaurants and other food-related operations may find themselves up against health violations by having a pet in the workplace.
  2. Does your landlord allow animals in the building? Some buildings may prohibit animals of any kind.
  3. Are any of your employees allergic to or afraid of certain animals?

Assuming you are ok on all of the above, it’s important to make sure that the pet you are bringing in is clean, housebroken and properly trained.

Does Your Policy Cover It?

Most business insurance applications don’t even ask if you allow animals in the workplace. As it becomes more common, this may change.

The Commercial General Liability coverage form (CG 00 01 04 13) does not have a specific exclusion that addresses animals. However, the Insuring Agreement does include this gem:

The insurance company asserts they will have “no duty to defend” for any suit against which “this insurance does not apply”. What does that mean to you?

Well, coverage for property damage or bodily injury caused by a pet in your non-pet-related business may fall under the “insurance does not apply” statement. Remember when we talked about the Classification Limitation Endorsement? The insurance company may decide that they could apply that endorsement to pets in the office and refuse to cover your business if Spot decides to bite a customer.

In most cases the insurance company will pay for medical expenses and legal fees associated with pet-related bodily injury or property damage. One thing they won’t cover is reputational damage caused by negative media attention.

Some insurance companies may include an Animal Liability Exclusion to their policies. This manuscript form excludes bodily injury, property damage or personal advertising injury arising directly or indirectly out of any animal. This exclusion applies not just to pets of employer or employees, but also to pets of customers, and other animals that may not be considered pets, such as rats or snakes.

What Should You Do?

It is always a good idea to disclose to your insurance broker if pets are allowed on your business premises. While some insurance companies may opt to exclude coverage for animal liability, others may not see it as a huge risk.

If animals are a part of your work environment, schedule a risk management analysis with your Hayes Broker to discuss this important topic.

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