You rest easy knowing your home insurance protects your house and possessions from damage caused by most natural disasters. But what happens if the disaster is your dog? If the disaster is a bite, then you could be covered by the personal liability or medical payments coverages typically found in a standard homeowners policy.
However, your homeowners insurance policy doesn’t pay for other damage your mischievous pets cause. That’s up to you. Here are some tips that can help you avoid problems in your home or on your property before your pet can cause them.
Safe Spot for Spot
The most important thing to have in your home is a safe space to corral your pet. Even well-behaved animals will act up at some point or another; storms, vacuum cleaners, or fireworks could set them off. When pets misbehave, you should separate them from any other animals or humans visiting your house.
Why is a safe space for your pet so important? Dog bites accounted for more than one third of all homeowners insurance liability claims in 2012 and racked up a price tag of more than $484 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Many carriers set restrictions on the dog breeds they cover and exclude breeds considered aggressive. Nonetheless, any breed could become aggressive when provoked.
Even if your animal isn’t aggressive, you should still provide a safe, animal-free space for potential guests to account for allergies, fears, or other inhibitions. Use child safety gates or crates to confine pets, and you could reduce your risk for costly medical payments or liability claims.
Secure the Rest
All that said, there will be times when your animal has the run of the house. Here are some steps you can take to keep your pets and property safe from harm:
- Secure trash cans: Plastic, leftover food, and other garbage can harm your pet or bring mold or pests into the house. Keep pets out of wastebaskets by covering bins with heavy lids or keeping them in cabinets. Another way to pet-proof trash cans is by installing a baby latch. Latches also could come in handy when securing cabinets containing medicine, cleaning chemicals, or sharp tools.
- Cover electrical wires: Exposed electrical cords could prove to be fire hazards with a pet in the house. If your critters gnaw on active wires, they could injure themselves and spark fires. Either tie cords up out of reach (bread ties work great) or tape them down with electrical tape or a plastic wire cover.
- Anchor TVs and computers: Pets also could use dangling electrical cords to pull heavy electrical equipment or other dangers off of stands or tables, injuring themselves and destroying expensive property. Secure all TVs, computers, or other expensive electronics to avoid physical and fiscal damage.
- Restrict access to washers and dryers: If pets crawl into the warm space behind your washer and dryer, they could injure themselves or cause serious flooding or fire damage. Block their path using cabinets, screens, or other means.
- Pick up small valuables: Small valuables, keepsakes, and other household items could serve as choking hazards for pets and become the next missing pieces to your valuable collections. When you bring pets home, put up and away all small valuables, preferably in locked or otherwise secured cabinets.
While it’s important to protect your home, your property and your guests from your pets, don’t forget to plan for the worst. Always have an evacuation plan for your pets for fires or severe weather.
Many emergency shelters won’t allow pets, so you’ll have to make plans with vets, pet boarding facilities, or pet-friendly hotels outside evacuated areas. Ask your local humane society or emergency management agency for pet evacuation information.
The best way to keep your pets safe, both inside and outside the home, is to plan ahead.