Acquiring a new pet is like becoming a parent. Pets and children are your responsibility, both emotionally and financially, and you need to plan for all eventualities. In the case of pet ownership, this includes being aware of your public liabilities so that unexpected costs don't bite you in the backside.
To put it baldly, liability is the "legal responsibility to pay for damages due to accident or loss," and as a pet owner this means you are held responsible for your pet's actions. This includes meeting medical expenses for the victim if your dog bites someone, or repair costs to the vehicle that hit him if the dog runs into the road.
Don't let the big brown eyes and black nose blind you to reality. If you are considering getting a pet, then do your homework and find out how to protect yourself from the liability that comes with pet ownership.
An alarming statistic is that 50% of dog bites happen to people known to the dog and on the owner's property. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an astounding 800,000 people suffer dog bites every year in the U.S. Of these, around half are children, with the majority being between 5 and 9 years old.
Consider that 10% of all children have no health insurance, and all that this implies if your dog seriously injures such a child. If the child ends up in the hospital, especially if cosmetic surgery is needed to repair the damage, then the costs can be very high indeed. The wise dog owner is prepared for the unthinkable with adequate liability coverage.
That new puppy may be utterly adorable, but even the cutest critters cause accidents, even in the home. Be it a Pug puppy tripping an elderly visitor and breaking her hip, or an overprotective Border Collie chasing the postman off the premises, accidents happen. And if your dog is the cause, then you are liable for any ensuing costs or medical expenses.
Do not assume your home insurance policy will cover you – many do not, so if in doubt, double check. It is also highly recommended that you take out third-party pet liability coverage, specifically for such eventualities. And if you think your dog's bark is worse than his bite, read on…
When it comes to breeds, not all are treated equally in the eyes of insurers. Some breeds, such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls and wolf hybrids, are overrepresented when it comes to dog attacks. Many insurance agencies take the view that these breeds are an unrealistic risk and either refuse to cover them or provide only limited coverage.
Be aware of this, and when taking out a policy, be upfront about your dog's breed and ask specific questions about the level of coverage so that you don't get any nasty surprises if the unfortunate happens.
A level of $500,000 liability coverage is recommended, and it is better to find out your dog is covered before you need that money than after. Indeed, New York is considering legislation that makes it mandatory to provide proof of liability coverage before applying for a dog license.
If you are driving to the park with your pooch in the passenger seat and are involved in an accident, don't assume your car insurance will cover the vet bills if your dog is injured. Vehicle insurance policies vary; with vet treatment for trauma injuries often rising into thousands of dollars, know where you stand before that crash.
It is hugely distressing if your dog or cat is hit by a car. But did you realize you are also liable for not only your pet's vet fees, but also possibly for repairs to the vehicle that hit the pet? This double whammy is not unusual. The law takes the view that a pet in the road is out of the owner's control and hence is their liability. Even if the driver is insured, the insurer may come after you, the pet's owner, to reimburse the costs.
Last but not least, most prospective pet owners realize that should their new pet become ill, they are liable to meet the costs of veterinary treatment. However, what they may not know is how expensive this care can be. Veterinary medicine and surgery is now so advanced as to be comparable with human treatment – but at a commensurate cost.
If you want to avoid the heartbreaking scenario of your pet being denied a lifesaving treatment that you just can't afford, then pet insurance is essential. To ensure your pet is not deprived of the highest standard of care because of financial constraints, look into a wide range of pet insurance products, or better yet, talk to an adviser whose job it is to be in the know.
With pets, just as with children, you need to approach parenthood with open eyes, but don't let this put you off. The joys of pet ownership and the enrichment they bring to life far outweigh the negatives. But for peace of mind, check with your Trusted Choice® independent agent before you bring that puppy, kitten, pony, or Vietnamese pot-bellied pig home. Agents are risk and liability experts who can make sure you, your home, your family and your new pet are all fully protected.