Two dog attacks just weeks apart have highlighted the danger agents face. Before you knock, safety trainer Tracey Hawkins says you need a safety plan.

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Many agents discount the importance of a safety plan before stepping on any person’s private property. In addition to preparing for dangerous people situations, agents need to prepare for potentially dangerous pets and even hazardous environmental exposures.

In February, two agents learned this lesson the hard way, with separate incidents happening just weeks apart. One incident in Iowa and another in Western Australia both involved aggressive dogs who were doing their job, protecting property, while agents were trying to do their job, inspecting the property.

As it turns out, these are more than isolated incidents; in fact, 2023 was a record year for dog attacks. While there are many points of view on this topic, there are undoubtedly several ways to improve your safety before these encounters happen. Let’s look at what happened to these agents and at some solutions that can help protect you in the future from potential dog attacks while you are working in the field.

2 real estate agents’ survival stories 

Real estate professionals often encounter household pets without issue. However, pets can sometimes create a danger that requires awareness and a prevention safety plan. In Iowa, the real estate agent (who was armed via concealed carry) shot a dog in self-defense after it broke free from leash restraints. 

In Western Australia, an agent was attacked by dogs after being instructed by owners to visit the property but not warned there were aggressive dogs there. These two incidents highlight the dangers of working in unpredictable environments.

Let’s understand the dangers and implement actionable solutions that allow agents to show their value by protecting themselves and consumers.

Awareness and preparation

Real estate agents should inquire about the presence of pets or exotic and potentially dangerous animals before arranging showings. They should check the multiple listing service (MLS) listing notes for any warnings. 

Likewise, agents with animals at listings should give other agents a heads-up. Knowing the types and demeanor of animals they might encounter can help agents prepare and advise their buyers accordingly.

Stories of encounters with a wolf kept as a family pet, aggressive goats and other farm animals, rodents, and reptiles, including snakes, illustrate the variety of potential dangers agents may face. 

Safety protocols for animal encounters

Develop and follow safety protocols, including how to approach animals on the property and what to do in case of aggression. Training on wild animal behavior in rural areas or farm communities can be invaluable.

Effective communication

Agents must communicate with homeowners to ensure pets are securely contained or absent during showings, minimizing risks to all parties involved. 

In Iowa, the agent had concluded the house tour when he asked to see the basement, where the Australian shepherd-beagle mix was kept during the visit. The dog pulled away from its owner and leash and charged the agent. The agent, who had a concealed carry permit, shot the dog.

The owner said the dog posed no threat, though witnesses reported seeing the agent kicking the aggressive dog away before shooting it. The dog was severely injured but survived. Prevention is the best choice since, in these cases, there is always the possibility of litigation by either party.

Securing pets during showings

Sellers should be advised to remove or securely confine pets during property showings, whether they are present or not. This reduces the risk of accidents or confrontations between pets and visitors. 

The real estate agent in Western Australia visited the property in the owners’ absence. He wasn’t warned there were dogs on the property, and no warning signs were posted. Two of the three dogs descended upon him, causing significant injury, crushing bones and ripping his flesh. 

While recovering, he is using crutches and a wheelchair. The aggressive dogs even scratched and damaged his car after he climbed on the hood to escape them.

Legal knowledge and disclosure

Understanding local laws regarding pets and exotic animals is crucial. Agents can advise homeowners to check on local pet compliance rules before putting their homes on the market and opening them to the public.

To mitigate potential liability, agents should direct the homeowner to talk to their insurance company and attorney about their potentially dangerous pets. Their insurance agent can ensure they have proper liability coverage based on the type of pet and the risks they carry.

Charlie Lee, senior counsel and director of legal affairs at the National Association of Realtors, advises agents to tell sellers to remove potentially dangerous animals from the property. “If that isn’t possible, they must ensure everyone who enters is aware of the animal’s presence.”

Emergency plans

Have a clear plan in case of an animal attack, including emergency contact numbers and a first-aid kit in the vehicle.

Utilize technology

Virtual tours can be an alternative to physical showings, reducing the risk of animal encounters. As learned during the pandemic, they can also help an agent be more productive. Agents can virtually preview several properties during a virtual meeting and quickly eliminate ones that are not a fit for the client.

Final thoughts

By taking these steps, real estate agents can protect themselves and help create a safer environment for buyers and sellers, minimizing liability risks associated with pets on the property. Such proactive measures are crucial for avoiding accidents and also help agents show their value by leading with safety. 

Tracey Hawkins is a former real estate agent, international real estate safety and security expert, instructor, and keynote speaker. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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