Pets have a positive impact on our lives in so many ways, especially here in BC where the SPCA found homes for over 10,000 animals in 2020 alone. But for all of the good times and emotional support that they provide, they also present insurance concerns that you may not have anticipated. Whether you have a pet, or are considering adopting, take note of the risks that may impact your liability.
Four Common Liability Concerns from Owning a Pet and How You Can Protect Yourself
Injury to Persons and Other Pets
This is the most common risk, and for the most part it’s relegated to dog owners. Barely a season passes by in BC without a local news report about a dog owner duking it out in claims court over an alleged attack.
At the end of 2018, a Comox Valley case that pitted a Pitbull owner against Chihuahua owners found both at equal fault for the dogfight that resulted in applicants’ damages. Among claims, were veterinary treatment for the Chihuahuas, medical treatment for their owner, and an additional claim for lost wages. Both parties were found at equal fault since all dogs were off-leash in a leash required zone, and the Chihuahuas owner was contributorily negligent in causing her own hand injury by inserting it in between the pitbull and the Chihuahuas, which reportedly instigated the aggressive interaction. The point being, is that it doesn’t matter whether or not your breed falls under what is considered “high risk” you must recognize all leash laws in your community, and ensure that you have compressive insurance coverage for dog bite liability. View more on how to reduce the risk of dog bites.
Damage to Property
Whether a cat, dog, or especially aggressive parrot, pets can also cause significant property damage. To reduce the potential for a claim, be as diligent when it comes to protecting property in the community. If your pet has a penchant for digging up the lawn or knocking over fencing (etc.), keep them indoors or tied up in the yard so that they cannot access any area that is owned by a neighbour.
Once again, also take the time to review your homeowners, condo or tenant insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your unique needs.
While smartphones get most the headlines when it comes to regulating driver distractions, a hot topic of late includes operating a vehicle with an unrestrained pet. Across the border, U.S. States such as Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Ohio have various regulations in place regarding operating a vehicle with an unrestrained animal aboard. With ICBC campaigning heavily to reduce distracted driving in British Columbia, don’t be surprised if similar laws are passed here. That being said, don’t wait to take preventative action.
To reduce the risk of your pet causing distracted driving, make sure that they have been fed, received exercise, and have “used the bathroom” before getting into the vehicle. If you have yet to take your pet on a long road trip and plan on doing so in the future (i.e. summer vacation) perform test runs first, to see how they react on short trips. If the tests don’t go well, you may need to leave them with family, friends, or in the kennel. In addition, restrain your pet in the back seat with a hardness or cage (size permitting). Lastly, be sure to pull over and take breaks on longer road trips, taking them out for a walk at rest stops and the like. View more on how to prevent driver distraction when driving with a dog, or cat for that matter.
PETS VS SMART HOMES
While the property damage that can ensue when a pet is left to their own devices in an unoccupied home is nothing new, advances in digital technology have presented pet owners with a new level of risk. In our recent article about unusual home insurance claims we told the tale of how felines are causing water damage by switching on motion-detecting faucets. Motion-detection appliances along with internet-of-things (IoT) web connected devices have not yet figured out how to solve the unattended pet problem. Your pet’s “home alone” activities are activating features within smart homes, increasing the risk of water and electrical damage. If you have a smart home, you will need to be especially careful. That may mean powering down when you’re not there, or keeping your pets in one room where they can cause no harm. It’s a case by case basis, but must be considered if you don’t want to come home to surprises that you may not be financially prepared for.
Make sure that you have appropriate coverage to account for all of the above. Contact an independent broker and let them know your pet-based concerns, and receive an accounting of your homeowners, condo, or tenant policy, in addition to your auto insurance, and anything else that may impact your personal liability.
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