We allow small dogs and cats in our CCRC. What are the legal ramifications for our parent company and pet owners? Residents like to pet the animals and on occasion, could get bit or otherwise injured.

First, you should have a written pet policy. It should limit the size of the pets and maybe prohibit certain breeds of dogs. Also, the number of pets per resident should be restricted.

You should check with your insurer to see if they want other restrictions in your policy, and you want your insurer to state that your policy covers you and your parent company if a pet injures a non-pet owner. Learn also whether your insurer will issue policies to the pet owner and what the limits and costs to the pet owner will be.

You should have a written agreement with the pet owner setting forth all obligations of having the pet on the grounds. This agreement could provide that the pet owner secures insurance to cover any liability arising from the actions of the pet in harming persons by biting or exposing them to any health risk, such as infectious diseases.         

The agreement should require the pet owner to have the pet properly vaccinated and routinely treated by a vet. You also would require the pet owner to maintain the unit and the grounds of the facility. The pet owner should agree to remove the pet if it becomes a threat to any person. The determination of whether a pet is a threat shall be at the sole discretion of the provider.

These steps should be taken by all providers, regardless of the licensure or type of residential facility. You should have the resident pet owner confirm that the pet is not a certified service animal or a certified therapy animal so that disability laws do not apply. You also should check your policy and agreements against the requirements of state laws. 

Please send your legal questions to John Durso at [email protected]