The Insurance Behind Adding a Pet to the Family

A cute puppy or cuddly kitten may seem like a good idea when you’re at the pet shop, but Davis Dyer Max recommends considering the risks and liabilities you may also be bringing home.

A national survey by Trusted Choice® found that 29% of respondents, representing more than 65 million households in the United States, said they have either given or received a pet as a gift. Of those, 73% said they never considered liability or risk factors of pet ownership such as higher insurance rates or the need for specialty coverage.

Many people don’t understand or take into consideration the huge financial risk and expense they may be presenting along with that cute puppy. Pet owners are responsible for their pet’s actions and could be held liable if, for example, their animal bites or injures someone or property.

Davis Dyer Max urges consumers to consider these points before giving a pet as a gift:

Sick puppy? While the concept of health insurance for pets has received a lot of attention, 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 some merit for certain pet owners, but consumers should research any pet insurance product carefully before buying it.

Is Fido a biter or a chewer? As a dog owner, you can be held financially responsible if your animal attacks and 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. About 50% of all dog bites happen on the owner’s property according to the Insurance Information Institute. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children are the victims of about half of the 800,000 dog bites that are reported yearly in the United States, with the highest rate among children ages five to nine and many requiring medical attention. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10% of children (7.5 million) in the United States do not have health insurance. Talk with your insurance 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 agents 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 that 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 insurance agent about the availability of this special coverage.

Beyond cats and dogs. Does your little princess want a pony? Or maybe your future farmer wants a baby goat? These types of gifts are not uncommon, especially with the popularity of state fairs, livestock competitions, and youth agriculture programs. Families who are considering the purchase of horses, goats, calves, pigs, 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.

Davis Dyer Max not only advises clients about insurance, but we’re risk and liability experts. Meet with an agent that can help in assessing your risks and ensuring that you and your family know what you’re getting into before adding a pet to your household.