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Megan Claire Wallace Bridges, MS, AADC
20 May 2015
I am new to the field of Animal-Assisted Psychotherapy and I am curious about what kind of issues other therapists and professionals have run into as far as liability insurance is concerned. Is your use of animal-assisted therapy covered by your professional malpractice/liability insurance? Did you have to purchase additional coverage? Have you ever had to make a claim against your policy? What kind of documentation did you obtain from your insurance provider to prove coverage before implementing your animal-assisted therapy program?
12 Jun 2015
Hi Megan -
I keep hearing again and again about the difficulty in obtaining insurance for a therapist assisted by an animal. In another forum I belong to, it was mentioned that the NASW (National Association of Social Work) has recently stated that they EXLUDE coverage of an animal in the therapy setting. Other therapists mentioned that State Farm Homeowners included their dog under the condition that the dog was privately owned. Yet another therapist mentioned having coverage by All State.
Here in Israel, I am covered by the two place where I work. In terms of my private clinic, my animals are covered by home owners insurance.
20 Jul 2016
No, Megan. It's literally impossible to secure liability insurance, either professional or (affordable) general business. I have The Hartford for my business liability and property coverage, and currently American Professional Agency for my Social Work malpractice policy. I can't tell you how many insurance companies I've called over the past 3 or so years, to ask about liability for AAT work that's paid, not volunteer.
I just spoke with both my business insurance agent, and my professional liability representative on the phone. My Hartford agent agreed to look into my policy further, to verify if there are any exclusions about injury from animals. He seemed a little frustrated by all of my questions, but appreciated that I'm asking prior to any potential claim--then finding out I'm not covered. One of my questions was, how is it determined who owns the animal...my LLC, or myself? If my LLC owns her, then the liability is much less than if I own her & I'm sued personally. She can't sleep at the office, since I'm only there 2 days/week.
American Professional Agency verified that I'm covered for the therapy portion, but not for injury to clients by the animal. So if Izzy were to behave unethically in session, I guess we're covered there. ;) The rep did refer me to Hiscox (855) 838-9021, for business liability that she claims does cover injury by animals. I've already received a quote from them & it was quite high, so I couldn't go with them.
This is going to be a long battle for us, I'm afraid.