Published: February 2015
You came home to discover that Rover missed you so much he dug a hole in the carpet. And for good measure, he chewed through the drywall in the hallway. Now what? Aside from making sure there's no need for a trip to the veterinarian and then cleaning up the mess, is there any help for damage caused by an energetic (or anxious) pet?
While Rover’s adventure is quite a mess, homeowners insurance coverage for damage caused by a pet is limited. There is generally no coverage for personal property, such as a television or furniture, if it's damaged by your own pet. So if Fluffy shreds your curtains during one of her midnight romps or Max rips through the new couch, you likely won’t be able to file a claim with your insurance company. Similarly, most policies exclude coverage for damage caused by a pet or domestic animal (as well as insects and rodents) to structures on your property, including a dwelling or garage. Should your mischievous goat break the door to your barn, your homeowners insurance is not likely to cover the cost of repairs.
However, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the liability protection with most standard homeowners policies may provide coverage if a pet damages someone else’s property. If your horse breaks the neighbor’s fence or your puppy chews a friend’s dining room table, your insurance may cover the cost of repairs or replacements. This liability coverage may also extend to damage caused by domestic animals such as a goat, pig, cow or chicken, assuming the animal is a pet and/or used for hobby purposes (business farming would not be included). But again, there would probably be no coverage for damage to your own personal property.
When a non-domesticated animal damages a structure or dwelling, you may be able to file a claim. If a raccoon ravages your garage, your personal belongings typically won't be covered, but damage to the garage itself is likely included in your coverage. Similarly, if a bear knocks some siding off your cabin, the damage to the building may be covered. However, damage caused by insects, rodents (for example, rats, mice, squirrels and chipmunks) or birds (although a window broken by a bird may be an exception) is usually not covered by a standard homeowners policy. Animal infestations and damage from animal waste or secretions are also generally excluded from homeowners coverage. Should a bat take up residence in your attic, your homeowners insurance is not likely to help with removal, clean-up or repairs to any damage it leaves behind.
As much as possible, it’s best to be proactive and maintain areas and remove objects that could be tempting to wildlife (or energetic puppies), and contact your agent as soon as you discover any damage. Make sure you understand what your homeowners policy covers regarding animals and call your agent with any questions.