Pets and Homeowners Insurance: A Guide For Pet Parents

Buying a home is a monumental step in anyone’s life, but with it comes several additional factors that many first-timers might not anticipate. While owning a home can be wildly liberating from the frustrations of renting, there also comes the added responsibility around property damage, injury liability, and other potential threats on your property that you could be held liable for.

One of these potential “threats” is your pet. While the family dog, an exotic bird, rat, or snake might not seem so dangerous, your homeowner insurance provider may see it differently. There’s more to liability than just dog bites or a cat digging up a neighbor’s flower bed, however, and when it comes to determining what kind of coverage is best, or what kind of coverage is available, homeowners need to know all of their options.

What Is Homeowners Insurance?

Homeowners insurance is important in events of natural disasters and theft, as well as protecting homeowners in cases of accidents or injury occurring on their property. 

Due to the high cost of investment in a home, homeowners insurance may also be a requirement for a home loan from a mortgage lender. Even once a home is paid off, however, insurance for such a large investment should not be overlooked, simply because of the value in protecting one’s assets.

The Value of Homeowners Insurance

Depending on where a person lives, the overall cost of the property being insured, and other determining factors, the cost of homeowners insurance may vary and should be reviewed annually. For example,  some of the most expensive states in the United States to have homeowners insurance include coastal states, hurricane-prone states, or other areas more vulnerable to natural disasters, as they tend to face more potential threats.

When it comes to determining how much homeowners insurance you need, there are several things to keep in mind:

  • The overall estimated reconstruction costs, in the event of a total loss of the home.
  • The estimated value of personal property kept within the house, including devices and furniture.
  • Potential areas of injury (such as stairs, walkways, backyards, swimming pools) and how those areas might stand as liabilities.
  • The “loss of use” coverage in estimated costs, which pays for things like hotel stays when a lost property is being rebuilt.

While homeowners insurance likely won’t look the same for everyone due to the unique circumstances that come with homeownership, there is basic foundational coverage that all property owners should seriously consider.

Statistics on Homeowners Insurance, Pets, and Liabilities

Particularly when it comes to determining the right kind of homeowners insurance, there are several additional factors to consider when reviewing patterns amongst other homeowners. For example:

  • In 2019, a little more than 5% of insured homeowners filed a claim due to theft, natural disaster, or other property damage.
  • Also in 2019, about 1 in 20 homes had an insurance claim made.
  • In 2020, the average monthly homeowners insurance cost was a little less than $1,500.
  • The average cost of a dog bite claim in 2020 was about $50,500, a 12% increase from 2019’s $44,800.
  • In 29 States, dog owners are liable for injury caused by their pets.

Depending on your unique needs, you should be able to calculate a monthly cost depending on these different factors. From there, it’s important to shop around with the best insurance companies to ensure you’re not only getting the best coverage, but also the most benefit for the amount you pay every month.

Are Pets Covered Under Homeowners Insurance?

Depending on the coverage provided by your insurance, pets and their potential liability are not always protected when comparing homeowners insurance. Even if liability, damage, or harm occurs on your property due to a pet, they may not fall under the insurance umbrella depending on where or to whom they happened, as well as the species and breed of the pet in question.

When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Pet Damage?

Generally, homeowners insurance will cover damage done by a pet to another person or another person’s property, but will not cover damage done to one’s own home, or for example, if one’s dog bites them. Generally, claims like this fall under “personal liability” regarding coverage. There are three main types of insurance coverage, including:

  • Liability coverage, including medical coverage and personal liability, covers accidents that occur to other people or other people’s property.
  • Dwelling coverage covers the cost of home repairs or rebuilds in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Personal property coverage covers one’s belongings being stored in a home or property from events like fire, flood, theft, and more.

Homeowners Insurance and Dogs

When it comes to insuring property against dogs and their potential liability, many insurance providers will offer varied coverage depending on the breed, the circumstances of the damage being claimed, and other potential factors.

When Will Homeowners Insurance Cover Your Dog?

Many insurance providers will not cover dog breeds commonly thought to be “aggressive” or hyper-energetic that may be more prone to destroying property. Some providers will also go so far as to refuse coverage for dogs who have histories of behavioral problems, including biting, property damage, and overall aggression. Some of the breeds most likely to be “restricted” include:

  • Doberman Pinschers;
  • Pit Bulls;
  • Rottweillers;
  • Chow Chows;
  • Wolf Dogs/Wolf Hybrids.

While many insurance providers will not cover dogs assumed to be aggressive and more prone to biting in general, other breeds may be covered when it comes to bites and liability.

In some states, dog bite attacks might come with criminal charges; other states, however, do not have any laws surrounding dog bites at all.

When it comes to liability for dog bites, coverage via homeowners insurance can come with several hoops to jump through, depending on the provider and the state of residence. 

Because of this, many dog owners must be proactive instead of simply paying an insurance premium every month and hoping nothing happens. When it comes to avoiding dog bites, homeowners should consider the following tips:

  • Education: Ensure you know about your dog’s breed and its behaviors, patterns, and general triggers for aggression or anxiety. Devote time and money to training around these triggers, while also letting visitors know and avoiding the triggers when possible.
  • Training: Early socialization and early training are imperative when it comes to teaching a dog how to behave in stressful situations, as well as how to act when agitated.
  • Daily exercise: Generally, well-exercised dogs are less prone to aggression. 
  • Keeping a safe distance: Especially while on a walk, at the dog park, or simply in unfamiliar areas, keeping a distance from other dogs and strangers will result in less chance of anxiety or agitation that could lead your dog to bite.
  • Neutering: It has been a long-accepted idea that neutering a dog can help to reduce aggression, on top of several other behavioral benefits. While this suggestion has recently come under scrutiny in some studies, neutering your dog on top of successful training patterns can still be useful in controlling triggers that may lead to biting.

Homeowners Insurance and Exotic Pets

The term “exotic pets” may summon images of anacondas, big cats, and chimpanzees, but the truth is, this definition can apply to a variety of pets sold in average pet stores. This definition might also technically change depending on where you live and who your homeowner insurance provider is.

Most exotic pets are considered anything that is not a cat, dog, or “farm animal.” Some exotic pet species include:

  • Large cats, such as servals, ocelots, or even bobcats, depending on local laws.
  • Snakes.
  • Reptiles.
  • Monkeys/apes.
  • Amphibians.

When it comes to insuring “exotic” pets, some are more likely to be covered than others. Some pets classified as exotic, but still potentially covered by homeowners insurance, include:

  • Small birds
  • Rodents;
  • Ferrets;
  • Fish;
  • Reptiles.

Just because some pets are “legal” doesn’t automatically mean an insurance provider will be willing to cover them under the homeowner’s coverage umbrella. Some pets most likely not covered by homeowners insurance include:

  • Venomous or poisonous snakes and other small animals;
  • Endangered animals;
  • Pets that require an ownership permit, license, or registration by state or federal law;
  • Hybrids of domesticated pets with non-domesticated species;
  • Pets kept in flocks, such as pigeons, chickens, and other birds.

When it comes to securing coverage for exotic pets, it simply comes down to understanding your provider’s restrictions and then ensuring they are included within your insurance package. 

However, if a particularly unique pet doesn’t fall under the umbrella for coverage, pet owners might consider investing in separate pet insurance entirely, though this kind of coverage may not cover the same things a homeowner’s umbrella would. Still, pet insurance could at least help to potentially cover injury and illness in a pet.

Renters Insurance and Pets

When it comes to covering rental properties, the correct insurance should fall specifically to owners and landlords. However, there are some areas of coverage many property owners cannot, or will not, purchase coverage for. Especially in rental situations, these personal coverages usually fall to the renter, and those coverage responsibilities regularly include pets.

How Does Renters Insurance Compare to Homeowners Insurance?

Renters insurance, as the name implies, falls solely on the renter and generally covers things like damage to personal property, theft, and other forms of liability the renter may be responsible for. It might also cover damages to a rental space if the repairs needed are big enough, as well as cover medical bills if the renter or someone else is injured on the property.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Pets?

Different from a “pet deposit” which typically covers standard wear-and-tear damage done by a pet within a rental, pet coverage via renters insurance covers larger-scale damage, and injury liability. Similar to homeowners insurance, renters insurance covers three main bases:

  • Personal Property;
  • Liability;
  • Additional Living Expenses.

In addition, this coverage mainly applies to damage done to other residents, and other residential property, rather than one’s personal property within the rental unit. In a similar vein, injury caused by your own pet is not covered, but an injury to someone else will be. 

Renters insurance also does not cover all pets, just like homeowners insurance. Some potential exclusions include:

  • Exotic Pets, similar to those listed above;
  • Specific Breeds of Dogs;
  • Dogs with a history of biting and/or behavioral issues.

When it comes to dogs and biting, the question stands of how renters insurance compares to homeowners insurance in terms of coverage. The short answer is, yes, they have fundamental similarities, but overall coverage depends on where you live and your insurance provider. 

If you have a dog that is particularly prone to biting, aggression, or other behavioral problems, it will be important to specifically enroll in coverage that covers potential liability and medical bills in the event of a dog bite. Even if your dog doesn’t have a history of biting, it may be prudent to consider coverage for bites as you face the fact that 4.5 million people in the US are victims of dog bites each year, with 1 in 5 of those requiring medical attention.

Tips for Pet Owners to Avoid Damage

While most damage done to rental units is a matter of normal wear-and-tear covered by initial deposits, some issues are unavoidable and others that aren’t — especially for pets. When it comes to taking responsibility for a rental property, one of the easiest ways to avoid excessive damage is by taking one’s pets and their needs seriously to avoid behavioral problems. Some of these needs include:

  • Regular exercise to avoid boredom and destructive tendencies.
  • Regular bathroom breaks, and/or proper indoor potty training, especially for dogs.
  • Keeping cat and dogs’ nails trimmed to avoid damage to carpets, hardwood, and furniture.
  • Intentional training with dogs who demonstrate behavioral issues.
  • Proper socialization, especially of dogs, to avoid aggression and biting with strangers.

Ultimately, renters insurance will likely cost less per month than homeowners insurance, but only because the original property owner should be focused on covering the big picture. When it comes to pets, however, tenants are as responsible for damage caused by their pets as homeowners are.

Additional Resources for Pet Parents

When finding coverage for pets, especially for exotic pets, dogs with past behavioral concerns, or other unique situations, there are options out there for pet parents. Some resources when it comes to seeking out answers to these questions include:

  • American Kennel Club offers resources around training, adoption, proper registration, and more.
  • The Humane Society provides resources on training, information about adoption, and charity work around animal welfare.
  • The Spruce Pets: Tips For Dog Training is a good hub for information on dog training, specifically, and how to best navigate not only new puppy challenges but behavioral concerns in older dogs.
  • Exotic Pet Guide provides thorough information about what makes a pet “exotic,” how to find the right veterinarian for them and more.