Being a pet owner is very rewarding, but it also brings with it a significant amount of responsibility. While people expect to be responsible for feeding and exercising their pet, many people don’t realize that they are also responsible for their pet’s actions, often financially. In fact, animal bites are one of the primary reasons for homeowners’ liability claims in Florida.
In the past, you could count on the personal liability coverage on your homeowners’ policy to protect your interest if your pet bit another person or attacked another animal. As litigation increased, home insurance companies began restricting liability coverage for household pets, and in some instances, denying it entirely.
Many insurance companies will not offer homeowners insurance for people who own exotic pets. This includes alligators, rattlesnakes, pythons, ferrets, and monkeys. If home insurance is offered, it almost always excludes liability coverage for any incident caused by the exotic animal.
The most common animal liability claim is for dog bites, and certain breeds of dogs that are thought to be more aggressive are banned from coverage just like exotic animals. While the list of dog breeds ineligible for coverage varies from insurer to insurer, many breeds commonly excluded include Akitas, Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Pitt Bulls.
Even those of us with fairly typical family pets need to be aware of the liability limitations. Many homeowners’ policies in Florida have lower limits for animal liability. In other words, if you carry $300,000 or $500,000 in general liability on your home policy, your carrier reduces the liability limit for animal bites only to $25,000 or $50,000. If you have excess liability coverage, many of those policies specifically state they will not cover the gap between the coverage for animal liability and the required underlying amount. This could leave you with over $400,000 in out of pocket exposure.
Unfortunately, living in Florida doesn’t always allow you the option of moving to a home carrier who will write higher animal liability limits. It is important to be aware of possible policy limitations and plan for possible gaps in coverage.
For additional questions or comments, please contact me at Dimmitt Insurance:
Elizabeth Staley, Private Client Account Manager
25191 US Hwy 19 N
Clearwater, FL 33763