Cats, Dogs, Horses and Hogs: How do they fit into your homeowners policy?

Jan 01, 2017 (0) comment

Many of us share our homes and yards with hairy (and hairless) family members. Our pets bring us many hours of entertainment and great joy. They can be a favorite pastime or hobby, happy faces awaiting at the end of a long day, our best friends. But in regards to your policy, just what does your insurance cover and not cover?

Most policies have an animal liability limit, or a maximum dollar amount that can be paid in the event your pet injures someone. This is present on the policy whether you have an animal or not as a set coverage that is generally outlined on your policy declaration pages. But what if you have a Doberman Pinscher or a Pit-Bull mix? Do you own a couple horses, maybe a goat or pig? There are restrictions, depending on breed, as well as type of animal, on your policy. Here are some of scenarios to consider:

You have a Rottweiler mix breed dog that is friendly and loves you children. However, despite your pet’s kind demeanor, you can be denied a policy for having a specific breed, depending on the company. Or you can be made to sign an “animal liability exclusion form”, stating the company will not be liable for any injuries to others under the personal liability coverage on your policy.
You and your spouse have a passion for riding horses and own a manufactured home on five acres of land, with a stable for your four horses and a coop for your chickens and rooster. This can be perfectly fine, again depending on the company. For example some allow for one horse per person per household. But beyond a certain number (like the four mentioned), some companies require a special “hobby farming” endorsement be added for an additional fee. If you have a full-on farm that you make a living off of, a whole separate business/commercial farming policy is required (consult your agent).
You have a large python, and have a rather exotic reptile collection, including a monitor lizard (which are highly aggressive), among others. This would also be a very high liability risk for a company to take on, and can make finding a company willing to do so a challenge.

Here are some suggestions. Be honest with your insurance company as to what animals you own. Many people use the famous “hear, speak, and see no evil” logic, but since almost all companies do a new home inspection, they will more than likely come across your farm animals or evidence of pets. Even if a policy is already in force, if you call and say your dog caused someone injury and your agent was unaware you had a pit bull, your agent will be unable to help you, and the claim can be denied. Be up front, so the proper procedures can be taken, and your agent can make sure you are with the insurance company that best fits your lifestyle and particular needs.

Also be aware if living in a park, even if your company is okay with your breed of dog, your park manager may not be. If you try to hide an animal, that could be far worse even than not being up front with your insurance company. Many people are unaware of what a pet can mean in regards to your homeowners policy. Now you know, so call an agent today if you have any questions, whether you are a current policy holder or about to be a new homeowner who will need insurance soon.

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