“When the pain hits, I think of Mitch instead of panicking. He’s shown me the peaceful side of death. It’s hard to explain how he did that.”

Rene Rousseau
This patient, who died of heart disease, was regularly visited
by Pet Partners team Lynda Kelly and Mitch, a Springer Spaniel.

Insurance Coverage

This section addresses four topics regarding insurance and volunteering as a therapy animal team registered with Pet Partners:

  • General Therapy Animal Team Activities

  • Team Training Instruction and Evaluation

  • Other Entities

  • Pet Partners Affiliates


General Therapy Animal Team Activities

This section openly conveys risk and insurance considerations of volunteering as a therapy animal team. For your benefit, its manner of presentation is purposely forthright. It is designed to lead you to be aware of your personal and legal responsibility as a volunteer therapy animal handler, consider how you are insured (personally and by Pet Partners), and take whatever action is advisable to ensure you are sufficiently protected. Discussion of Pet Partners' insurance as it applies to registered therapy animal teams begins in the fifth paragraph. It is important to read this section through to the end to fully understand its context.

It is important for therapy animal handlers to understand the risks involved in being a volunteer, whether it be through Pet Partners or in any other volunteer pursuit. As a therapy animal handler, you are personally and legally responsible for damages or injuries that are either caused by you or your animal, or suffered by you or your animal. Pet Partners assumes no legal responsibility for the actions of you or your animal.

Volunteers can protect themselves against these and other risks with a type of insurance called liability insurance. Whether or not a claim submitted to one's liability insurance carrier will be covered depends on the particular facts and circumstances of the claim and the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. Nevertheless, making sure that you have insurance is an important step in protecting yourself against future risks. Benefits provided by liability insurance generally include the costs of defending against lawsuits, payment of damages and in some circumstances, payment of medical expenses.

We recommend that all volunteer therapy animal handlers carry a homeowner's, tenant homeowner's, or condominium owner's insurance policy. Those policies generally include coverage for personal liability. We also recommend that handlers consult with their insurance agent to discuss the form and amount of insurance appropriate for their volunteer activities.

Pet Partners carries a primary commercial general liability insurance policy (“CGLI”) for its employees, officers, directors and qualified volunteers for accidents that occur during the policy period. A therapy animal team registered with Pet Partners is covered by this insurance upon receipt of the team’s acceptance letter and ends at the expiration of the team’s registration. Pet Partners' CGLI policy includes the following provisions, among others:

         a. Coverage under the policy is subject to the facts and circumstances of a loss and terms
               and conditions of the policy. Coverage is not guaranteed.

         b. Claims under the CGLI policy must be submitted promptly and could be barred if
               submitted late.

         c. If applicable, the CGLI policy might apply in circumstances where a therapy animal handler's
               homeowners policy does not, or vice versa; or the two policies might both apply.

         d. The CGLI insurance policy has limits in the amount of $2,000,000 per occurrence.

         e. Coverage for injuries suffered by therapy animal teams is limited to qualified medical
               expenses of less than $5,000 for handlers. There is no coverage for injuries suffered
               by animals.

         f. Therapy animal handlers registered with Pet Partners are individually responsible for monetary
             awards not paid by the policy (a good reason to carry homeowners or similar coverage).

         g. Coverage is not provided for damages occurring between fellow therapy animal handlers or any other Pet Partners volunteers.

         h. Coverage is not provided for damages caused by intentional acts or as a result of a therapy
               animal handler acting outside the scope of, or not in compliance with, Pet Partners'
               policies and procedures for volunteers.

         i. Territory covered by the CGLI includes the United States of America (including its territories
               and possessions), Puerto Rico, and Canada.

         j. Therapy animal handlers must maintain their volunteer status for the policy to be available
               (i.e., handlers must receive no compensation for their volunteer services and must not
               incorporate a registered therapy animal while performing duties of their job. Reimbursement
               of nominal incidental expenses such as supplies can be allowed without jeopardizing
               volunteer status.

For a complete understanding of the CGLI policy coverage, please consult the full terms and conditions of Pet Partners' CGLI policy.   A copy of the Certificate of Liability Insurance coverage for our volunteers is available on the Team Resources page.  For other questions relating to our coverage — please email insurance@petpartners.org.

Instruction and Evaluation

Subject to the terms and limitations of Pet Partners' CGLI policy (including those discussed above), Instructors, Evaluators, and others who are assisting Instructors and/or Evaluators at a workshop or an evaluation are considered Pet Partners volunteers and are also covered by Pet Partners' CGLI. The following persons, among others, are not covered:

  • Persons and/or animals who are seeking to become registered as a therapy animal team with Pet Partners through a workshop and/or evaluation and who are at any point in that process prior to receiving their acceptance letter from Pet Partners,
  • The general public
  • Independent contractors or staff of a facility where instruction or evaluation occurs.

Please note that the limitation set forth in item one above does not apply to therapy animal handlers already registered with Pet Partners and who are being re-evaluated and whose registration remains current. Insurance coverage terminates at the expiration of these handlers' registration period. If a therapy animal handler registered with Pet Partners is being evaluated prior to expiration, CGLI coverage terminates at the earlier of either failing an evaluation or expiration of the registration period.

Even though the people in the preceding categories are not covered, a licensed instructor, team evaluator, or person volunteering at the request of the licensed instructor or team evaluator might still be covered for injury-related expenses caused by any of the persons listed in the above categories (subject to the terms and conditions of the CGLI policy).

Other Entities, Including Facilities

Questions arise periodically about whether Pet Partners' CGLI applies to other entities and their facilities. These other entities include separate businesses, governmental agencies, or organizations other than Pet Partners. We recognize that therapy animal handlers registered with Pet Partners often take the initiative to approach an entity for use of its facility, including whether the facility can be used for instruction and /or evaluation.

Pet Partners' CGLI is limited to qualifying individuals (i.e., Pet Partners employees, officers, directors and volunteers); it does not cover entities. Such entities are considered unrelated third parties just as a non-employee / non-volunteer would be.

Facilities with questions about insurance coverage may contact operations@petpartners.org.

Pet Partners Community Partners

There are several important considerations for community partners. As discussed above, Pet Partners' CGLI covers individuals, not entities. Subject to the facts and limitations in the policy, therapy animal handlers registered with Pet Partners are covered by Pet Partners' CGLI for damages or injuries they cause or suffer when performing Pet Partners' activities regardless of whether they volunteer individually or as a member of a Pet Partners community partner.

However, Pet Partners' CGLI does not apply to community partner activities that are outside the scope of Pet Partners activities as described in Pet Partners' Handler Student Guide. It also doesn't applyu to community partners activities that don't comply with Pet Partners policies and procedures. If handlers participate in either type of activity in connection with a Pet Partners community partner, they will not be covered for any accidents that occur. To the extent community partners do not already have a liability insurance policy, they should consider obtaining coverage applicable to entities and their activities.

Multiple Therapy Animal Groups

Pet Partners has a collaborative approach to work in AAA/AAT. Registered handlers may belong to other therapy animal groups in addition to Pet Partners. However, to prevent confusion, the handler should clarify which organization they are representing during a visit, as that would impact insurance coverage should something happen. A simple way to achieve this is to wear only the badge for the group you are visiting on behalf of during the visit, rather than wearing multiple badges at the same time.

Pet Partners does not have any restrictions on its teams visiting a facility while other therapy animal volunteers who are not members of Pet Partners are present.

The preceding discussion is a general overview and is for informational purposes only. For a complete understanding of the insurance potentially available, please consult the full terms and conditions of Pet Partners' CGLI policy, as well as any homeowner's, condominium owner's or any similar policy under which you are named as an insured. Any accident that results in damages or injuries will be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances subject to the terms and conditions of Pet Partners' CGLI. This discussion does not create a contract or other legal obligation of Pet Partners, and may not be relied upon for that purpose. The detail and precise language of the insurance policy must be examined for a full understanding of the extent and limits of Pet Partners' CGLI.


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