Published: January 2015
Before you dive into the sea of questions that come with selecting a backyard chicken or picking out a pet goat, you'll want to first make sure you fully understand the implications of owning unconventional pets.
You may have already tallied up the various costs to care for such animals, and checked with local officials about any relevant ordinances, but have you talked it over with your insurance agent? Will having a hen or goat in your backyard impact your homeowners coverage?
We'll break things down to give you an idea of what you can expect.
Most homeowners policies offer liability coverage, which is designed to help protect you from lawsuits for any injuries or property damage you might cause to some other person. And, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), that coverage also typically includes injury or damage caused by pets.
If your dog were to bite someone, for instance, your liability coverage would typically cover the related legal expenses (up to the limit stated on your policy), according to the III.
Of course, most people have conventional pets like dogs — would that liability coverage also apply to your hen or pet goat?
Well, it might. Your homeowners policies may provide liability coverage for smaller animals you own for your own personal use, and not being raised for business purposes; for example, you're not selling the eggs or goat milk soaps at a farmers market (homeowners policies typically exclude liability coverage for business activities, though Insurance Journal says some companies may cover limited hobby activities). If you aren't sure what's covered in your policy, you may want to talk to your agent.
An agent can help you understand the terms of your coverage and whether there are certain scenarios that may not be covered. For example, homeowners policies don't typically provide coverage for damage a pet causes to your own property. It doesn't matter if it's your dog that chewed the drapes, or your frisky goat, your policy likely won't cover the damage.
A homeowners policy also won't pay the medical bills for your pet, says the III. So, even if your insurance company provides liability coverage, this does not include coverage for loss or injury to the animal. You'll probably have to spring for the costs of veterinary care on your own.
So, do yourself a favor and talk to your insurance agent to find out how your prospective pet might affect your coverage before you get too swept up in rural visions of raising and nurturing a backyard chicken or goat.