Running a business comes with it’s own host of liabilities, but throw animals into the mix and you bring it to another level.  This isn’t to scare away those that are passionate and skilled at animal photography, including domesticated house pets.  House pets, such as dogs and cats, are a normal part of family life in many countries and have found their way into mainstream acceptable as a fixture in family portraiture. 

Pendzick-106 copyIn fact, these cuddly bundles of fur have become so widely accepted that many photographers have jumped at the chance to dive into a niche of photographing them by themselves.   However, this increased popularity and acceptance requires that photographers have an enhanced understanding of the liabilities to themselves, others and their business.  There are two major areas that these photographers should be aware of; control of animals and vaccinations.

The first measure is that of control of the animal with the intention of ensuring a safe and professional session.   This provision in a contract will request the client maintain control of the pet during the session for the safety of all those involved.  Further, the provision should hold the Photographer harmless of any additional conditions that may exist.  While not all circumstance in life can be controlled, liability can be limited by placing responsibility on other actors (i.e. the client) in the course of the photography session.

Sometimes control is unable to be achieved and requires that safety measures be put into place.  This includes a preventive measure of vaccinations.  All photography contracts including pets should include a vaccination provision that requires appropriate formal documentation vaccination records to be provided to the photographer ahead of time. 

This is important for the safety of the photographer, as well as other individuals in the immediately surrounding area.  Often portrait sessions can occur in public parks and other individuals will be around.  And hopefully, this will never happen, but an animal can become excited or aggressive towards unsuspecting individuals in the park.  While a photographer may not necessarily be found liable for the lack of vaccination or control of the animal, the photographer can assist in safeguarding themselves and surrounding individuals by requiring this documentation.

    As you can see, there can be some “ifs” that come along with a situation.  We can’t contract for everything, but what we can do with contracts is to use them as an educational and protection tool.  First, the contract will protect on a legal standpoint.  But even more importantly, it will inform and educate the client to understand they have responsibility for the control and safety of the session along with the Photographer.  This will facilitate and encourage the higher probability of success rate for the session for all parties involved.  Hopefully, a successful session will result in higher sales.  And if all else fails, these contractual provisions will be in place to legally protect the parties involved.

(Insert from Nicole: If you are in need of a comprehensive pet photography specific contract, model release, or other legal document click over to Rachel’s site and check out her Pet Photography Bundle!  You can also purchase individual products if you only need one or two things….)

Brenke_013 copyRachel Brenke is the lawyer/photographer owner of The Law Tog, a site is dedicated to providing legal, marketing and biz advice to photography businesses with maximum efficiency and results.  Through business consulting services and her published book “The Laundry List: A Mother’s Guide to Balancing Family and Business”  Rachel provides guidance in practical ways for photography business owners to succeed.

*Snag my free ebook the Legal Lens HERE!