Protect Your Local & Specialty Kennel Clubs

Protect Your Kennel Clubs

Protect Your Local & Specialty Kennel Clubs | Has your kennel club ever been sued? Have you had an exhibitor fall in the ring? A judge slip while entering the building? A dog bite a child? A spectator who paid to attend your show who gets knocked over by an exhibitor with crates on a dolly?

In any of the situations, liability could be the determining factor in what happens to your kennel club, unless you are properly insured by a Commercial General Liability policy with adequate limits to protect your club, the venue, and your officers, directors, and volunteer working members.

Next concern is your treasury. Big or small, you must have funds to put on your show, which includes payment to judges, the superintendent, lunches or dinners for judges and members, raffle or auction expenses, and all the many other costs involved with putting on a show. A Fidelity Bond policy would protect your kennel club, your directors, and show chair, plus give your members confidence that the money earned by the club is protected from theft or embezzlement. Anyone serving as a treasurer should also be bonded, and the club should insist on a Position Bond, so they are able to elect a new treasurer and know that the insurance is in place; no specific name is required. Your books should, of course, be audited with each change in the treasurer’s office.

Depending on the amount of money and the financial circumstances of your club, the audit may or may not be a certified audit, but could be performed by an outside source offering this service. Limits on a Fidelity (or Crime coverage) policy are determined by the company underwriting the policy and the number of Board and kennel club members. Most important in this determination is the amount of money in your treasury. Some companies will include your rescue funds (most do not) and some will include your funds for your Canine Health Foundation accounts. Be certain to cover as much as the company will offer, as the premiums for this type of insurance are very reasonable. If your assets were wiped out, could you put on a show?

Back to the Commercial General Liability policy. Today it seems that everyone is subject to allegations of liability that are a result of your dog show, and possibly your conformation classes and even Meet The Breed events hosted by your kennel club. For the CGL to cover any accident or injury, your club must be legally liable and negligence must be proven. The cost of defense, even when you are found not liable, is high. And should your club be liable, for whatever reason, claims can be extremely high. The frightening part of this—and do check your club policy and your homeowner’s policy—is that each director and officer can be held personally accountable. An attorney hired to sue the club will include the venue, your officers and directors, and anyone additionally involved. I’m personally aware of a lawsuit that included the city the show was held in!

Final insurance that your all-breed or specialty club should consider is Directors and Officers Liability. As a general rule, this is the most costly of the types of insurance discussed, but personally, I would not serve as an officer or director of a club that did not carry it. This type of insurance provides coverage or protection from claims as a result of club activities that include misleading statements, breach of duty, neglect, error or acts of omission. The company underwriting will have specific verbiage to clarify all coverage. Discuss all of your needs with the agent or agency that you decide to purchase your insurance from. You can request a quote, so your board or members can vote on the amount of insurance your club needs to carry as well as discuss the various types of coverage. Coverage can be adjusted based on what underwriting can offer and on the club’s budget.

My reason for including this brief insurance lesson is simple. Unfortunately, several years ago, I was Show Chair of a fairly large and active all-breed club that was accused of negligence in preventing injury to an exhibitor. The kennel club was sued, the city, the large civic center, and all officers and directors of the board were personally sued. The person who claimed negligence stated that she stepped into the building and slipped on a wet floor, falling and breaking several bones. She said there were no cones indicating a wet floor and no warning signs were posted—probably some dog relieving itself there, was her comment.

In reality (and there were several witnesses), she stepped out of her motor home in the parking lot and stepped onto a dolly she’d planned to load wire crates on, to pull dogs into the building. Her foot became entangled and she went down. She then got up, loaded and pulled the dolly with dogs on it (in wire crates), and entered the building. Upon entering, she stated that she slipped on the wet floor and was ultimately taken to the hospital as a result of the fall inside the building. Exhibitors saw her fall in the parking lot and others saw her enter the building where she supposedly slipped and fell, and they stated that she did not fall inside at all. Fortunately, this club had the appropriate insurance and no liability was assigned to the club or any of the members. She received no money and the claim was denied. It was a learning experience for all concerned and one that I discuss with every club I’m involved with. The person discussed later passed away in an auto accident.

Protect your kennel club, your members, and your money—learn about insurance, club and personal liability, and make sure you’re covered!

  • For 10 years, Bonnie Guggenheim has been the force behind Top Notch Toys. Her introduction and commitment to the Toy Group and Breeds began in 1969 when she met Shih Tzu Breeder Jay Ammon. Bonnie has always had a special love for Shih Tzus which she bred herself until 1985 breeding many Champions and Specialty Winners. The enthusiastic support from her National Breed Club members as a 4-time chosen Specialty Judge, encouraged her to pursue becoming an AKC Judge for additional Toy Breeds. She also bred and showed Japanese Chins, falling in love with their flat faces. She was also Vice President of the American Shih Tzu Club, and an active member of the Western Reserve KC, Medina KC, and the Lakeland KC. Bonnie always volunteered to help her clubs including being Show Chair for several of them over the years. In 2011, Duane Doll & Joe McGinnis asked Ms. Guggenheim to head up Top Notch Toys and decided to place her judges license on emeritus status so that she could pursue her true passion of helping the fancy, the breeds, and educating the community.

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