You may have pet insurance to protect your pet if there is a health issue such as an accident or illness. But does your homeowner’s insurance cover you if your pet ends up causing a problem that costs a fortune to fix? If not, is there another insurance you can get that will?
Even if your pet is perfect and unlikely to bite anyone and send somebody to the hospital, crazy and unexpected things sometimes happen with pets. You could, for instance, have a cat turn on a faucet when you’re not around and end up with a flooded home. It may sound bizarre, but things like this actually happen. According to the ASPCA, almost half of American households either have a dog or cat, which translates to nearly 180 million pets, and that isn’t even counting other types of pets.
Whether you’ve got a dog, cat or an exotic pet, it goes without saying that your pet is worth every ounce of trouble they may cause. But it is crucial to make sure your pet mishaps are adequately covered to avoid financial hardship.
Let’s take a look at homeowners insurance and dogs (and other pets, too.)
- Are pets covered under homeowners insurance?
- Does home insurance include dog bite insurance?
- Does homeowners insurance exclude any pets from coverage?
- Dog breeds homeowners insurance won’t cover
- Are exotic pets covered?
- How does dog liability insurance work?
- Renters insurance and pets
- Frequently asked questions about pet liability insurance
- The verdict on pet liability insurance
With your home insurance policy, you typically have coverage for the dwelling (all structures), personal belongings and liability.
If your pet causes damage to someone or their property, the liability and medical payments portion of your homeowners policy will kick in for coverage, depending on the state and type of pet.
The critical distinction here is that there is no specific “pet insurance coverage” under a homeowners insurance policy. The coverage available will be determined by your home insurance liability coverage limits, which are usually between $100,000 and $300,000, and your medical payment coverage limits, which are generally between $1,000 and $5,000.
If you have an umbrella policy, your liability coverage limits will be much higher as umbrella policies are typically sold at amounts between $1 million and $10 million.
Expert tip: Even if you have an umbrella policy, be sure to check with your insurance company and review your policy for limits on injuries caused by animals. Some home insurance policies impose lower limits of coverage for damage or injuries caused by pets. So, even if you have a $300,000 liability limit, you may only have a $25,000 limit for pet-related damages.
The most common pet-related home insurance claim is for dog bite injuries. According to the CDC, more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and more than 50% of those occur on the dog owner’s property.
Dennis E. Sawan, an insurance and personal injury lawyer at Sawan & Sawan, says that his firm often deals with dog-related insurance matters. Sawan said that dog bites are the topic that mostly comes up when somebody is trying to use their homeowners insurance policy to offset the damage done by a pet.
If your pet injures someone or their property and a lawsuit results, you could quickly be on the hook for thousands of dollars. If the payout is within your homeowners liability coverage limits, you will most likely be covered but should expect a premium increase at the next renewal. There is also a chance that your home insurance company will decide the dog is too high a risk and will exclude the dog from future coverage entirely.
“Insurance coverage will usually turn on an analysis of liability under these different state laws, so it’s important to understand the nuances of pet liability laws in your state,” Sawan says.
The most common injury we see involving pets are dog bites. These types of injuries disproportionately affect children, and they can be rather severe. The type of coverage that will apply to a dog bite depends on the specific language of the insurance policy.”
Check with your insurer to determine precisely what pet-related injuries or damages are covered under your homeowners policy.
Unfortunately, if your dog belongs to a breed known to have a bite history, no matter how awesome or kind your furry friend is, your homeowner’s insurance probably won’t cover the financial costs incurred if a family member or guest is bitten.
- Alaskan Malamute
- Cane Corso (a popular type of mastiff, but all mastiffs are on this list)
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane (Scooby-Doo is probably very disappointed with the insurance industry)
- Pit Bull
- Perro de Presa Canario
- Siberian Husky
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Wolf hybrid
If you loved watching Tiger King and now own a few of those cats yourself, your insurance probably won’t cover any damage they do. Currently, 20 states have a comprehensive ban on exotic pets, which tends to be any animal that is considered dangerous and normally in a zoo. Thirteen states have partial bans on exotic pets, and 14 allow it with a permit or license.
But what about more common exotic pets like ferrets or pythons?
Some exotic pets may be covered under your home insurance policy. Be sure to ask your agent for specifics on what exotic pets are covered. You may discover that to be fully covered; you need to increase your liability insurance coverage.
And if the pet isn’t covered? You may want to buy “exotic pet insurance” or animal liability insurance, which would be separate from your homeowners insurance policy. You may want to do that regardless to fill coverage gaps.
Let’s talk a bit about animal liability insurance.
There is no such thing as dog liability insurance under a home insurance policy. However, some companies sell animal liability insurance policies that are separate from a homeowners policy.
This type of policy is intended to fill the gaps that may be left by your homeowners insurance. Dog liability insurance policies are especially popular with people who own breeds the insurance companies have deemed as dangerous and for people with dogs who have a history of biting or causing damage.
Dog liability insurance covers liability only for bodily injury and property damage to third parties. It is intended to compensate victims for their property replacement and medical bills. Much like homeowners liability, this coverage does not cover you or members of your household. It also does not cover animals used for business purposes, like farm animals or show dogs.
There is a good chance your renters insurance offers liability coverage for your pet, but you’ll want to check the policy before buying it.
Suppose your policy doesn’t offer to reimburse expenses for a pet that injures somebody or causes damage. In that case, you may be able to buy additional coverage or get an animal liability policy to make sure you’re covered.
Is the landlord responsible for a dog attack?
Depending on the state, most laws place responsibility on the dog owners for dog bite injuries.
However, if the renter’s liability insurance is not enough to cover the damages, the landlord could be sued for additional damages. This is especially true if the landlord was aware a dangerous breed was living on the property.
Do I have to tell my homeowners insurance that I have a dog?
Yes. It is essential to be honest with your insurer that you have a dog or other pet and their breed. If this breed is restricted with that insurer, you need to know that so that you can consider other options for coverage.
If you tell your insurance agency you do not have a dog and then there is a pet-related claim, the insurance company could deny coverage.
Do I have to add my dog to my homeowners insurance?
Whether you’re shopping for home insurance or already have it and later get a dog, you will want to notify your insurance company.
Are there things I can do to help prevent my dog from biting?
The crazy thing about insurance is – you buy it, but you hope you don’t ever have to use it. Keeping that in mind, we thought we’d repeat some of the tips that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer to prevent dog bites and scratches.
- Always ask if it is ok to pet someone else’s dog before reaching out to pet it, even if the dog appears friendly.
- Always make sure a dog has seen you and sniffed you before you reach out to pet it.
- Do not let young children play with dogs without supervision, even if the child has met the dog before or if the dog is your family pet.
- Responsible pet ownership, including socializing your dog and using a leash in public, can help prevent dog bites.
- Do not disturb a dog while it is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies
- Do not continue petting a dog if it seems scared, sick or angry.
- If a dog knocks you over, curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck. You can also put a purse, bag, or jacket between you and the dog.
- Do not encourage your dog to play aggressively or roughhouse.
- Do not panic or make loud noises, and never run from a dog.
- Do not try to break up dog fights.
Pets are a big responsibility. Dogs – and cats – can chew apart sofas, destroy carpets, and certainly insurers have good reasons to be nervous about insuring bite-prone dogs.
But for all that can go wrong, so much can go right. Pets are often a fantastic addition to a family.
Be proactive in discussing options with your homeowners insurance company as well as considering additional coverage options from pet liability insurance to make sure your furry family mishaps are covered.