From Pests to Pets: Does Your Insurance Cover Animal Damage?

Johnna Kaplan

You might assume that your homeowners insurance would cover any and all animal damage. But, most insurance policies treat animal-related damage differently depending on factors specific to the incident.

Imagine this: One night, you hear a scratching noise coming from your attic. You grab a flashlight, nervous to confront whatever’s lurking up above. But instead of the ghoul you had expected, you discover a family of raccoons that have taken up residence in your attic.

Scenarios such as this one can be uncomfortable to think about, not to mention the cost of repairing the damages done. To see if scenarios like this one are covered by your homeowners insurance policy, keep reading.

Household Pets & Other Domestic Animals 

Your homeowners insurance policy likely covers some incidents that have to do with your pets, but not all.

Not Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

If your pets or other animals in your care cause damage to your home or property, it won’t likely be covered by your policy. Similarly, dogs, cats, birds, and fish are not usually included in the types of personal property that are insured against theft, damage, or loss — such as your electronics and furniture. Your domestic animals like chickens, cows, or pigs are also not likely included.

Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

However, if your pets injure another person, such as a guest or employee who is in your home with your permission, your policy may cover that person’s medical expenses arising from that injury. This coverage may also apply if your pet injures someone outside of your home. For example, a stranger you encounter in the park.

Keep in mind that if another person who isn’t covered by your policy is caring for your pet at the time, this coverage may not extend to them. This means it can be a good idea to make sure you have those that are self-insured watch your pet. This is especially important if your pet has struggled with aggression in the past.

Insect Infestations 

Insects can wreak havoc on your property in all sorts of ways, but the circumstances under which insect damage is covered by homeowners insurance are often very narrow.

Not Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

Damage caused by insects to your home or other structures on your property is unlikely to be covered. Note that in most cases, it is considered your responsibility to monitor and protect your property against insect invasions and other forms of slowly occurring damage.

Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

However, there are some special situations that many policies cover. For example, if a part of your home is rendered unlivable due to a structural collapse, and that collapse was caused by an infestation of termites, your policy may protect you if the termites and their destruction were hidden from view – that is, if you had no way of knowing that your home was being undermined over time.

Another instance, if a large tree topples beside your house during a storm and its insect inhabitants take refuge in your siding. In cases like this, your policy may cover some or all of your damage.

Mouse in the House 

Along with insects, the types of wildlife most likely to cause you problems on your property are rodents and vermin. There are hundreds of varieties of rodents, including mice, woodchucks, squirrels, and gophers to look out for.

Vermin refers not to a particular species of animal, but to small, destructive animals that are difficult to control. It can also refer to wild mammals and birds that are believed to be harmful to crops and farm animals or that carry disease. This definition includes rodents, but it would also include pigeons and bedbugs!

Not Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

Your typical homeowners insurance policy won’t cover damage done by rodents. This is because removing them is considered part of regular home maintenance.

Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

However, as with insects, damage you were not aware of that results from the presence of rats or pigeons (for example) may, in fact, be covered.

In more complicated scenarios, insects, rodents, or other vermin may cause gradual damage that in turn leads to a more dramatic event. For instance, rodents could chew through wires, creating the right conditions for an electrical fire. If a fire results, your policy may help cover damages because fire is usually covered.

What About Bats? 

Some animals you might think would be classified as vermin may actually not be. But even when they are covered, coverage issues can be complicated. Take bats, for example. Your policy may cover any of the damage they do cause – say, shredded insulation – but it may not cover the cost of cleaning up the guano they leave behind.

Whatever happened with that raccoon in the attic?

And in case you were wondering about those raccoons, although they’re small and meddlesome, they are not considered rodents or vermin. Therefore, if they destroy your attic, even if your policy excludes damage caused by other pests, it may cover the necessary repairs.

But remember!  Vermin damage to personal property is likely not covered. So, if raccoons chewed your air conditioner cords, they won’t be covered.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My! 

Deer, bears, and other large wild animals are less likely to climb down your chimney than squirrels, of course, but they can still cause substantial damage to your home or other property. And in most cases, that damage is likely to be covered by insurance.

Covered Under Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

Homeowners insurance policies are more apt to cover animal-related damage resulting from a one-time occurrence than from conditions that build up over time. The clean-up from a family of mice gnawing away at the contents of your cupboards probably isn’t covered; repair costs for damage caused by a mountain lion crashing through your sliding glass door may be.

For instance, say a bear damages your deck railing. Your homeowners insurance policy will likely help cover the damages. In comparison, other structures coverage can help cover damages done to your detached structures. So, if the bear damaged your detached garage, your other structures coverage may help cover the damages.

What Does Your Auto Insurance Policy Cover?

Most people are probably familiar with wildlife damaging vehicles, as high-speed encounters with animals such as deer are common in many regions. The vast majority of motor vehicle damage is covered by an auto insurance policy and not a homeowner’s policy. Generally, auto insurers consider damage from contact with an animal to be an “other than collision” (often called comprehensive) loss, rather than a collision loss. This means that having comprehensive insurance coverage can help protect your car from damages not related to a collision.

For example, say a rodent nests in your engine and chews through some wiring. Comprehensive coverage may help cover the damages because they didn’t result from a collision. In a similar example, say your dog chewed through your car’s head rest. Comprehensive coverage may help cover these damages as well because they didn’t stem from a collision.

The rules about what is covered vs. not covered when it comes to animals in and around your home can get complicated.

  • Always double-check your policy if you’re not sure what your coverage includes.
  • Ask your insurance company or agent if you have specific questions.
  • When animals are involved, it’s best to prepare for the unexpected.

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One Response to "From Pests to Pets: Does Your Insurance Cover Animal Damage?"

  • Alan Gardner | December 15, 2018 at 9:36 pm

    Thanks for the info. I recently had my attic checked out, critter access blocked and reinsulated. My crawl space also received similar attention. Some minor damage was found but otherwise everything was OK. Thanks to TERMINIX.

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