Dog Walking Apps – Liability and Insurance Considerations to Keep in Mind

Millions of people in California alone have dogs, and a large percentage of dog owners struggle to find the time to properly walk their dogs.  As any dog owner or lover will tell you, a tired dog is a happy dog, and there may not be a better way to tire out your dog and to mentally stimulate it than giving it a good walk every day.  The trouble is, people work, have kids and have commitments that sometimes prevent them from walking their dogs, and this can lead to behavioral and weight problems for these pets.  For decades, people would hire private dog walkers, most often through classified advertising and referrals.  This worked well enough, but many consumers wanted a bit more when it came to having their dogs walked and entertained.

As is the case with countless industries, the Internet has opened many possibilities for people with an entrepreneurial spirit and for those who may simply want to make some extra money.  Dog-walking apps like Wag! and Rover have hit the market and earned large and loyal followings quickly.  They offer convenience and real-time updates when your dog is being walked.  For those who use it, it’s often a tremendous convenience and a benefit to their pet.

Unfortunately, problems do arise for people who use these apps and for those who work for them, and the Orange County dog bite lawyers at Montevideo Law, PC would like to help both dog walkers and dog owners understand a bit more about the legalities behind this type of an arrangement.  It may help you decide whether or not these apps are for you, and it may help you decide to contact our office if you’ve been injured in a dog bite attack.

How These Apps Work

If a dog owner encounters a need for some help walking his or her dog, that owner can download one of the popular dog-walking apps and find that exact type of help.  While some of the specifics between the apps vary, generally speaking, the dog owner will sign up for the app, enter payment information for your walks and some information about you and your dog.

From there, the app works much like the common ride-sharing apps out there.  When you’d like your dog to be walked, the app will find someone willing to handle the job.  He or she can come to your home and take your dog out for the desired length of time.  You pay for the walk just like you would with a ride-sharing app, and you can order a walk as often or as infrequently as you’d like.

How Dog Walkers Are Screened

These apps also work in particular ways for those who want to walk dogs.  Prospective dog walkers sign up for the work, and at least one app company requires the payment of a small fee, but all of them state that they perform background checks before the walkers are allowed to take on any walks.  From there, the dog walkers that pass the screening are given brief training by the app company that deals with basic dog walking norms and ideas for when the walker should not take a potentially dangerous dog on a walk.  It’s a pretty straightforward process overall.

How App Companies Oversee This Work

The app companies advertise and promote their apps to the public to attract users.  They also recruit dog walkers and, as mentioned above, screen them when they sign up to walk dogs.  In addition, they train the dog walkers, help them with their online profiles that are designed to attract dog-owning clients and generally oversee the entire operation.  The app company retains a percentage of the fees paid by the dog owners to the walkers.

What these app companies do not do, however, is insure their walkers.  The walkers are treated as independent contractors, which means that they are responsible for their own insurance coverage that will protect them if they are injured by a dog they’re either walking or supposed to walk.  That has led to much in the way of negative feedback from walkers.

Liability and Insurance Coverage Questions for Dog Owners

The bottom line for dog owners who use one of these apps is that it would likely be advisable to make sure that you have a proper level of insurance coverage.  Wag! is one app that offers some coverage, but those limits may not be very high.  That means that if those limits are reached or surpassed if your dog bites someone while it’s walking with a professional walker, you could face legal and financial liability for harm caused.

In California, we follow the strict liability rule, which means that if a dog bites or attacks someone and injures them, there is no “get the first one free” norm that you often see in other jurisdictions.  Generally, your homeowner’s insurance will cover damage done by a dog, but before using one of these apps, you should:

  1. Find out specifically what types of coverage, if any, the app offers dog owners.
  2. Determine the policy limits for each of these types of coverage.
  3. Contact your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance agent to make sure that your dog is covered.
  4. Let your insurance agent know that you’ll be using one of these apps.
  5. Make sure that your coverage will extend to situations when someone from a service is walking your dog and your dog causes damage.
  6. Determine your policy limits on your own insurance coverage.
  7. Consider purchasing umbrella coverage if any aspect of your policy is lacking.

Overall, these dog-walking apps can provide a valuable and beneficial service to busy dog owners and to dogs.  However, you should take some precautionary steps to make sure that you are covered by insurance, as you are responsible for the conduct of your dog when he or she is out with a dog walker in most situations.

The Orange County dog bite lawyers at Montevideo Law represent people who have been injured in dog bite attacks in Southern California, but we still hope to help minimize the number of incidents that occur overall.  Please keep these ideas in mind if you’re considering hiring someone to walk your dog.

Call Dog Bite Law Group For Legal Guidance

If you have been harmed in a California dog bite attack, you need to take action as soon as possible to protect your legal rights and options regarding dog walking apps and dog walking services.  Contact our Irvine Dog Bite Lawyer today to schedule a free initial consultation.