Pets and Homeowner Insurance Policies

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My family recently added a new member in the form of a two-month-old kitten, and as part of the adoption process, we were provided with a month’s worth of free pet insurance from the shelter. While that was a nice extra, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. Why? Because pet insurance is fairly self-explanatory – it’s the animal form of health insurance.

On the other hand, the addition of our foot-smacking, toy-chasing, full-throttle-followed-by-full-nap-time furry miniature made me think about homeowner insurance coverage. After all, a good portion of the business I write consists of homeowner, condo, and renters insurance policies!

As a refresher to those of you who aren’t in the insurance industry, homeowner insurance policies are essentially split into two sections – property and liability. So, let’s take a look at how pets are covered – or not covered – under each section.

Typical homeowner insurance policies contain a property exclusion in them for animals, birds or fish. This means there is no coverage for them if they are injured or killed as a result of a claim. In addition, there is another provision that excludes coverage for damage to the insured’s home or property that is caused by an animal owned or kept by an insured.

However, many insurance companies offer the ability to buy back coverage for injuries sustained by your pet – as long as it is a result of a covered cause of loss under the homeowner policy. For example, the Central Signature Homeowners Endorsement covers up to $5,000 for the medical expenses of pets who are injured as a result of a covered property loss to the dwelling, other structures, and/or contents. While we all hope that nothing ever happens to our four-legged friends, it is certainly nice to know that the ability exists to get some protection for them under a homeowner insurance policy!

Now, let’s move onto the liability section of the homeowner policy. As you would suspect, if your dog (or cat in my case) causes bodily injury or property damage to another party, it is usually covered under the personal liability section of the homeowner insurance policy (unless a liability exclusion is present on the policy). For this reason, insurance companies usually have a list of prohibited dogs that are prone to frequency and/or severity issues when it comes to bite claims.

To summarize, you will have some – but not complete – insurance coverage for your pets under a homeowners insurance policy. This is where pet insurance fills in the gaps. Speaking of gaps, my cat just found a new place to hide, so I’d better go retrieve him before he gets stuck…

Talk to your independent agent if you plan on getting a new pet for the family this holiday season!

The information above is of a general nature and your policy and coverages provided may differ from the examples provided. Please read your policy in its entirety to determine your actual coverage available.

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