Do dog walkers need public liability insurance?

As I understand it, in the UK, there is a legal requirement for dog walkers, who provide a service, to take out a public liability insurance policy. And if you employ someone you’ll need employer’s liability insurance. If there was no legal requirement it would still be pretty well essential. I suspect that most experts would advise that professional dog walkers take out a public liability insurance policy. Why should they do this? A public liability insurance policy protects a freelance dog walker i.e. a person acting as a sole trader, from damage caused by the dogs that they are walking to third-parties and/or their property.

Dog walker. Photo: Pixabay.

The typical scenario is that a dog walker has say half a dozen dogs in their charge walking in a park. One dog breaks loose or leaps up at a person and bites them. The bite is serious and the person demands compensation. The dog walker is liable and his insurance policy will cover the damages subject to the excess and the terms and conditions which incorporates exclusions. Read the policy very carefully. And if you want to keep the premiums down you might be able to increase the excess payments in the event of a claim.

My research indicates to me that you can get cover in the UK for about £7 a month (between £80 and £150 annually). As dog walking is a growing business in the UK and as dog walkers can charge £17 per hour, £7 a month as an overhead is not major and I would say that it would be essential. As mentioned there may be a legal requirement for it where you live.

Certain areas will be better business opportunities than others. Of course the Covid-19 pandemic has temporarily put a massive dent in dog walking as a profession. This is because many dog owners are working from home full-time and able to take their dog for a walk. It is only under normal conditions when dog owners have to go into the office that they rely on others to provide that vital exercise for their dog.

As an aside, you might also submit yourself to a criminal background check as it would reassure your clientele. This may cost about £30. I suspect some clients will insist upon it.

As to the type of business you should set up I would suggest it should initially be as a sole trader. This is far less formal and a good starting point. You can just start and you will work as a self-employed person and sole trader. If you create a company you will have to go through all the usual processes to achieve that which at the outset you might consider burdensome. There are advantages to companies because they are limited liability which protects the company’s owner and you pay corporation tax rather than income tax which is cheaper. But save this for another day when your business has grown substantially.

P.S. Also check out these acts as they apply to dog walkers:

  • The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005
  • The Control of Dogs Order 1992
  • The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
  • The Road Traffic Act 1988
  • Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953
  • Dogs Act 1871