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You probably consider your pet a member of your family, but a homeowners insurance company looks at it in terms of risk. Depending on the type of pet you have and the state where you live, it might be difficult to obtain homeowners insurance at affordable rates, or at all.

Obtaining Insurance Coverage for Dogs and Exotic Pets
Many homeowners insurance companies deny coverage for applicants with dogs based on the animals’ potential to cause injuries or property damage. Rather than evaluate individual dogs, companies often exclude entire breeds that are considered aggressive. An insurer may automatically deny coverage to an applicant who owns a dog that belongs to an excluded breed, regardless of whether it is a purebred or mixed-breed dog and whether it has ever attacked anyone. 

Some homeowners insurance companies don’t automatically exclude entire breeds, but rather evaluate the histories of specific dogs. Some states prohibit insurance companies from excluding entire dog breeds but allow insurers to charge high premiums for owners of those animals.

Homeowners insurance companies often exclude exotic pets, which may include ferrets and some reptiles and large mammals, such as snakes and tigers. If a company excludes your pet, you might be able to purchase a separate exotic pet insurance policy, but it will most likely carry high premiums.

What Homeowners Insurance Will and Won’t Cover
If your pet is covered by your insurance and it injures someone not named on the policy, the insurance company will investigate the facts surrounding the incident. If the company finds you liable, your policy will cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and legal bills, up to your liability limits. If your dog bites or jumps on a member of your family and causes injuries or chews up your furniture, you will be responsible for associated costs. 

Your insurance company won’t necessarily cancel your policy if your dog bites someone, but it may decide not to renew your policy if your dog has bitten people more than once. If your homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover dog bites at all, you can get a separate dog liability policy, an umbrella policy that will cover damage or injuries caused by the dog, or an excess policy that will provide liability coverage beyond your homeowners policy’s limits.

Tell Your Insurance Company about Your Pet
Before you purchase a homeowners insurance policy, contact several companies to compare coverage and rates. If you have a dog or exotic pet, make sure you inform the insurance company. If the animal were to injure someone or cause property damage and you never told the insurer you owned it, you would be responsible for any related bills. If you decide to get a pet after you have obtained a homeowners insurance policy, contact the company to make sure the animal will be covered. If you don’t notify the insurer about your pet and the company finds out, it may cancel your policy.