The holiday season often includes images of cute puppies in a basket under a Christmas tree or a kitten with a sparkly ribbon around its neck. But before you do your holiday shopping at the pet shop or pound, Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents and brokers recommend considering the ‘not so cute’ risks and liabilities you may also be bringing home.
“Many people don’t understand or take into consideration the huge financial risk and expense they may be presenting along with that cuddly puppy,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, education and research. “Pet owners are responsible for their pet’s actions and could be held liable if, for example, their animal bites or injures someone or causes property damage.”
Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents urge consumers to consider these points before giving a pet:
• Sick puppy? While the concept of health insurance for pets is a popular topic, it is important for pet owners to know that this coverage is NOT suitable for everyone. These policies are non-regulated insurance products, so purchasers have no recourse through state insurance regulators if there is a complaint or problem with their coverage. In addition, many pet insurance policies exclude routine examinations, vaccinations and pre-existing conditions. This coverage may have merit for certain pet owners, but consumers should research any pet insurance product carefully before buying it.
• Is Fido a biter or a chewer? Dogs are often specially mentioned in homeowner and renters policies as well as homeowner’s association rules. As a dog owner, you can be held financially responsible if your animal attacks, bites and/or injures a person or property. That bite can also have huge implications for your insurance. Most people are bitten by dogs they know, not strays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about half of the 4.5 million dog bites reported annually in the United States occur at the property owner’s home, with the highest rate among children ages five to nine and many requiring medical attention. Talk with your independent agent before you bring a new pet into your home to make sure you have adequate liability coverage and inquire about safety measures to take to protect your family and those who visit your property.
• What kind of dog is that? Many insurers are now routinely asking in their policy applications if homeowners or renters have dogs and if those dogs have a history of aggressive behavior. Some companies may even deny coverage to those who own certain breeds of dogs, including wolf hybrids, pit bulls and Rottweilers. Insurance companies can deny claims or limit coverage for dog owners who do not take precautions to prevent their animals from attacking. Many industry experts recommend at least $500,000 in liability protection for owners of large dogs or for those who own certain breeds.
• How much was that doggy in the window? Pet owners must understand that no matter what they paid for their pooch (or any pet), most homeowners insurance policies exclude any damage or injury to animals. So if your pet is injured or killed in a fire or other disaster, it is not likely you will be able to claim it as a loss with your insurance company.
• Cruisin’ with canines. Some auto insurers are now including a pet clause which allows for a certain amount of coverage for expenses relating to your dog’s injuries in the event that you are involved in an accident when your dog is in the vehicle. Ask your independent agent about the availability of this special coverage and consider using a proper animal transport crate or restraint.
• Does Santa deliver piglets? Does your little princess or buckaroo want a pony? Or maybe your future farmer wants a baby goat? These types of gifts are not uncommon in some areas, especially with the popularity of state fairs, livestock competitions and youth agriculture programs. Families who are considering the purchase of horses, goats, calves, pigs, chickens and other farm animals may want to consider livestock or animal mortality products that cover certain losses, including drowning and electrocution. These are considered specialty products, though, and are not available through all agents.
• Beyond dogs and cats. Exotic animals such as ferrets, snakes, lizards, spiders, turtles, sugar gliders and others can be popular pets but they can also present liability concerns. Check your state and local laws about the legality of these animals in a home before you purchase them. Also check for other risks such as disease and propensity to bite.
Thanks for our friends at Trusted Choice® for the advice!