Seeing a dog’s furry nose and flopping ears peering from the window of a car may bring a smile to a weary traveler’s face. Our pets are our trusted companions and often we carry them in our vehicles for company or for traveling to our destinations. What we may not consider is what would happen to our pets if we were involved in an accident and they weren’t harnessed in for safety. Center for Pet Safety investigates – When it comes to insurance, what is your pet worth?
A Devastating Accident
A fellow pet owner, “Mary”, reached out to Center for Pet Safety to inquire about how to put a value on the life of her dog. While stopped at a stoplight, an uninsured driver plowed into the back of Mary’s car. She and her passenger were whisked to the emergency room. Her beloved dog was secured in a crate but the crate was destroyed in the collision and her dog was killed. While recovering and devastated, she has been asked by her insurance company to determine the replacement value of her dog.
Putting a Value on Love
In insurance terms, our pets are classified as personal property. In the eyes of the law, they are no different than a piece of luggage. As disappointing as that sounds, it is one of the primary reasons the pet industry and pet service providers aren’t held to the same rigorous standards as children’s safety or toy manufacturers. While we put a huge value on the life of our pets and the joy they bring to our lives, they are unfortunately considered the same as an inanimate object.
For further clarification, I reached out to Jeanne Salvatore from the Insurance Information Institute for some guidance. How does the insurance industry put a value on our pets? Ms. Salvatore is a pet owner herself, and she agreed that this can be a cloudy space for pet owners.
As pet owners, we cannot place a dollar value on affection. As much as you love the warm unconditional adoration of your pet, the cold practicality of calculating the replacement value requires that you remove emotion from the equation. You have to answer a practical question:
How much would the animal cost if you were buying or selling it?
If you purchased your pet, you know what you paid and you likely have a bill of sale from that transaction. Your insurance company will ask for that information, any additional value that you provided such as training and up-to-date documentation to prove the worth of the pet.
Pet owners must also understand coverage (or lack thereof) with other insurance policies. For instance:
Home/Renters Insurance: Ms. Salvatore stated home or renters insurance does not provide coverage for your pet. The only coverage of a home or renters policy is if that animal hurts someone (ie: dog bite/attack).
Pet Health Insurance: These policies offer financial reimbursement for veterinary care costs for animals. Each policy is different, so pet owners need to ensure they read the fine print and fully understand what is covered and what is not.
Pet Injury Coverage: Pet owners may have this coverage through brands like Progressive. However, they only cover up to $1000 in the case that your pet is injured or killed in an accident. For any of us who have ever had to walk into the emergency vet with our pets, we know that treating a serious injury can cost 10-15 times that amount.
Specialty Policies for Show Pets: If you have a particularly valuable animal that is income producing (show dog, racing/stud horse, etc.), Ms. Salvatore suggested that pet owners go to an agent or broker who specializes in this type of insurance. She suggested Roughnotes.com but also reiterated that the best thing to do is ask other people who insure their animals. Another good resource for finding an insurance company is to ask the seller of the animal.
Are there other options?
The only other recourse that “Mary” has is to sue the uninsured driver, prove her case and the value of her dog in court.
As pet owners we never want to think about tragic consequences taking our pets suddenly from our lives. This is why we do our best to make sure that the products marketed to pet owners really do keep our pets safe. We’re fighting for change and we thank you for standing with us.
Note: The name of the woman who called CPS has been changed to “Mary” for this article. She is actively involved in discussions with her insurance company and is considering legal action – so we have opted not to release her real name for this article.