The dog ate my couch. Will my home insurance policy cover it?
Not likely. Generally speaking, most homeowner and tenant insurance policies won't cover personal belongings damaged by your pet. This also applies to the structure of your dwelling. If Fido chews through a door or your cat scratches up a new carpet, it’s typically considered a financial risk you choose to take as a homeowner when you bring domesticated animals into your home.
The same applies for animals kept on other areas of your property, like a barn. If your horse kicks down the barn door suddenly, for example, you'll likely have to pay for the repairs.
Know liability limits
While pet owners care for and love their pets like members of the family, the fact is your pet is legally considered property. And, that can come with liability exposure. That’s why it’s a good idea to advise your insurance broker you have one. If your dog bites someone, for example, you could be facing a liability claim. Take a closer look at your liability limits and protection to be sure of exactly what’s covered.
There are other considerations too. The Ontario Dog Owners' Liability Act, for example, holds the dog owner “strictly responsible” for all acts of their dog, even if they are unaware of an incident or tried to prevent it from occurring at the time. That also extends to the person supervising your pet, such as a dog walker. Municipalities have bylaws governing the ownership and control of dogs. Remember, if your dog injures someone, the victim may be eligible to collect compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income
- Property damage
If your dog digs up part of your neighbour’s fence or damages a friend’s belongings while they are staying with you, the personal liability coverage on a home insurance policy can help to pay for the repair or replacement of the damaged items. If someone is injured by your pet, that coverage can help pay for your legal defence should a lawsuit arise.
Tips for owners
Since your insurance policy likely won’t help in the event your pet damages your home or property, it’s a good idea for you to be a responsible owner from the outset. Here are some tips:
1) Engage - Give them the proper attention during their daily walks, play or cuddle sessions. If they get the proper attention, they’ll be less likely to expend excess energy being destructive.
2) Train - Dogs should be house trained and cats to use their litter box to prevent messes indoors. Proper training can also help you keep them off furniture or countertops, for example.
3) Pet-proof – If you own a cat, make sure they have a scratching post. Just brought home a new puppy? Use puppy pads to help ensure accidents don’t damage your floors. Provide your pets with a variety of toys to play with and chew on so they don’t go looking for your shoes!
4) Groom – Be sure to trim your dog’s nails so they don’t accidently scratch up your floors.
RELATED READING: Room-by-room guide to pet-proofing your home