Dog owners usually understand that certain breeds of dogs can raise their homeowners insurance cost or even cause an insurer to deny coverage. Insurance problems due to pets do not only include dogs, however. Insurance companies often have restrictions on other creatures like snakes, skunks, or even chickens.
Talk to your insurer if you share your property with any animal other than an approved dog or cat. Your current policy may not provide exotic animal coverage or protection for a backyard farm. Insurance companies differ in what they allow, so you may need to shop around to have adequate coverage.
Coverage for Exotic Pets
State laws vary on what people can legally own for pets within their borders. In Michigan, for example, it is legal to own an exotic pet as long as it is not a large carnivore or a wolf hybrid. The law passed in 2000 and allowed residents to keep any dog/wolf hybrid pets they owned before the passage of the law.
Additional insurance restrictions also affect the ownership of approved exotic pets. The owners must legally obtain the animal, get any required certifications or permits, and ensure the county and municipality where they reside accepts the species as well.
Owners of exotic pets must make their insurer aware of their ownership. The pet owner may need an insurance rider to amend their original policy, or they may need to choose a different type of homeowners policy to have adequate coverage with the animal in the home.
Damages caused by any type of illegal activity by the homeowner are not covered by insurance, and that includes claims that involve an illegal pet. An illegal pet can be either a banned species or an allowed species that is obtained or kept illegally. A lawsuit could become the sole responsibility of the homeowner if their illegal ownership leads to an incident.
Protection for Farm Animals
Backyard goats and chickens have become commonplace in many towns and suburbs. A homeowner may never think to contact an insurer after they acquire a few of these creatures. In many instances, the animals are not a concern for the homeowner or the insurance company, but there are times when the situation becomes more complicated.
A few chickens can easily become a dozen or more after a couple of years. A chicken and a goat may suddenly have new barn mate in the form of a cow. Most insurers will still allow the homeowner to keep their existing policy unless the population of the animals and the profit they produce is large enough to disqualify the endeavor as simply a hobby.
Another concern is if a friend or neighbor becomes ill after consuming eggs or milk given to them by the homeowner. An insurance company may cover the expenses of a single food poisoning claim, or they may not. Backyard farmers should discuss the risks and their coverage with their agent before they share their bounty.
Insurance After an Incident
A legally owned pet covered by a homeowners policy can become a liability if their behavior leads to a filed claim. The insurer, after paying the claim, may refuse coverage during a renewal period if the animal remains in the home. The owner can seek insurance from another company, but other insurers may also refuse coverage or charge much higher rates.
Owners of exotic pets, or any pet considered a risk, need to talk honestly with their insurance company about the options available to them. The assumption that the insurer will pay if their pet ownership leads to a lawsuit could become a financial hardship for the homeowner. Contact Phillip R. Davis & Associates for more information about any insurance-related issue.