Working Dog Liability Insurance now available for purchase by producersWritten by Saige Albert
Working dogs across the U.S. may be a source of liability for some producers, and Burdell Johnson of Food and Fiber Risk Managers noted that a number of people were interested in an insurance option to protect themselves from liability.
“We created Working Dog Liability Insurance at the request of livestock producers,” Johnson explains. “Because of the amount of public lands in the West and the volume of recreational people, producers were interested in options for liability insurance.”
“Working Dog Liability Insurance is for livestock producers, who use guardian and herding dogs to protect their livestock from predators and other risks, and to assist in the management of their flock or herd,” he says. “Frequently the producers have no liability protection from incidents related to the guardian and herding dogs.”
Working with the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), Johnson explains that they began developing a product geared toward livestock guardian dogs.
“People said they also needed insurance for their working dogs,” he adds, “so we added both herding and guardian dogs to our policies.”
“This insurance is a liability policy that covers dog bites or damage that dogs may do to animals and property,” Johnson explains. “This is different than farm and home owner's policies, and in fact, most policies exclude certain breeds of dogs or any dogs with ‘an aggressive nature.’”
Because herding and guardian dogs are bred to be protective and aggressive in nature, Johnson says that producers may be at risk for liability claims, including dog bites, as a result of unexpected visitors or intruders.
“Even if a dog does what it is trained and supposed to do, if a third party is harmed, the livestock or dog owner could be liable,” Johnson comments.
“We came out with this product during the last week of January,” he says. “We have people who use it for their dogs on allotments in the mountains, and other people use it for guardian dogs that protect free-range chickens. It has really mushroomed from what we initially thought.”
Producers interested in coverage can get a quote by filling out a short application form. Questions on the application look at management practices and the type of work done, as well as the risk of contact with people.
“Producers with good management systems will have a lower premium,” Johnson says. “Premiums also depend on good protocols related to feeding and watering, shot records, signage that may be posted and other factors.”
The locations where dogs are utilized, whether that be public or private lands, and proximity to neighboring ranches or highly populated areas are also considered.
“We review and score the applications after they are received, and then we send a quote to producers. The quote is reflective of the score,” he explains. “We can insure a number of breeds of dogs, and if the breed isn’t listed specifically on the application, we can look at covering that animal, too.”
Johnson notes that the policy covers up to $50,000, and it can be used for legal defense if a claim is taken out.
“Working Dog Liability Insurance will establish a claims defense team to protect the policy holder against false and frivolous claims,” he adds.
Within the industry
Johnson continues that producers don’t need to worry about working with an insurance company that doesn’t understand the agriculture industry.
“Food and Fiber Risk Managers is a company that was created and is owned by ASI,” he explains. “We created this company when we developed the Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) program for lamb.”
When the LRP program was created, Johnson was serving as president of ASI, and he agreed to continue running ASI’s risk management portfolio after he completed his term.
“I’ve put my energy into working on these insurance programs,” Johnson comments, “and I’m also a producer. I raise sheep and cattle, so I’ve always been involved in the ag industry.”
Johnson notes that he appreciates the opportunity to continue working for and with producers to protect their livelihoods.
“Our guardian dogs are just doing their jobs,” he says. “We specialize in working with people in the ag industry.”
“Working Dog Liability Insurance was created by and for the livestock industry,” Johnson adds. “We encourage producers to take advantage of these livestock industry-designed risk management tools.”