Animals and the Home Insurance Policy

You likely consider your pets as valued members of your family and most American in any state- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado– would agree. An AP poll found that 50% of people surveyed felt their pets were as much a part of their family as the human members. Unfortunately, your home insurance policy does not view your pets in the same way as you do. In fact, your policy likely has some specific sections addressing pets and other animals when it comes to damage and injury. As a responsible homeowner and pet owner, you should understand how your home insurance policy addresses the issue of animals.

Your family pet is legally considered to be personal property, meaning that the legal rights of pet ownership only extend to the animal as property. However, seemingly contradictory to this concept is the fact that home insurance policies specifically exclude pets under the personal property coverage section. In fact, policies usually state that they do not cover animals, birds, or fish as personal property. Therefore, if someone were to steal your dog, you could not claim reimbursement for the monetary value of your dog.

In addition, if there were damage to your home caused by animals, your home insurance policy would likely not cover the cost of repairs. Most home insurance policies exclude damage to your home caused by birds, vermin, rodents, insects, or domestic animals because damage to your home from animals can often be attributed to a lack of maintenance. For example, rodent infestation is a condition that will usually be found by an observant homeowner, who then will call an exterminator to rid the house of the pests before they cause significant damage to the house. By not performing regular checks or inspections, an otherwise easily remedied condition can deteriorate dramatically. As a result, home insurance policies exclude coverage for animal-related damages because it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to properly maintain the condition of the house.

One exception to the animal-caused damage exclusion is breakage of glass or safety glazing material. The reason for this exception is that the damages are likely sudden and accidental, meaning that insurers don’t consider the homeowner to be negligent in home maintenance in these cases and are willing to provide coverage. This is a consistent theme in the home insurance policies, as insurance companies really intend to cover accidental damage, but not items related to deferred maintenance. Keep this in mind when determining what damage your pet could possibly cause to your home.

Your pets can also potentially trigger the personal liability insurance coverage on your policy. For example, if your dog bites someone and causes that person injury, that will be considered your personal liability because the dog is your property. This means your home insurance policy will likely cover you for this risk as part of the personal liability limits. According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, dog bites are the second most expensive cause of claims on home insurance policies after fire. Dog bites even rank ahead of hurricanes in terms of insurance claims costs. Insurers are aware of this, so it’s not unusual for home insurance companies to refuse coverage for homeowners with certain dogs considered to be a high-risk for biting. This is something else you should consider when considering how your pup may affect your insurance policy.

Animals make great additions to your household, but it’s important to also understand the risks they pose. If you can handle the added responsibility of being a pet owner, you should have no problems with your home insurance policy.

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