Get a claws in your policy for pet pandemonium
Check out the exclusion section of your insurance policy to avoid the huge bills when your furries destroy your stuff
Have you ever wondered whether your home contents and motor insurance would pay out a claim should your dog destroy your sofa when you’re out for the night because of fireworks terror?
Or if your puppy chewed up a section of your car’s bumper?
Pets can be super destructive.
A few years years ago, UK insurer Saga Insurance analysed the animal-related home insurance claims that it had handled in the previous year, and came up with a list of weird incidents reported by customers, which came with expensive price tags.
“We are a nation of pet lovers, but even the best-behaved dog or cat can leave you with a big bill,” said that company’s spokesperson, Paul Green.
“Accidental damage cover is essential for any pet owner to protect themselves against any pet mishaps.”
Cases included a customer’s pair of tortoises which knocked over their heat lamp, starting a fire which they survived, but the damage repair cost was R93,000; a puppy which spotted the neighbour’s cat and charged through a glass patio door after it, shattering it; a dog which ran through wet paint and left paint paw marks all over the house’s carpets, and another pooch which swallowed its owner’s hearing aids, mistaking them for treats.
Then there was the woman who returned home to find all her favourite antique ceramic ornaments smashed on the floor. Sitting amid the chaos was her neighbour’s cat.
Mark Eliasov of Cape Town recently had a long, hard look at his Outsurance vehicle cover policy document – something too few of us do – and was alarmed to find, under “What is covered under comprehensive cover”, the following: “Loss of or damage to the vehicle caused by animals (excluding domestic animals).”
What does that mean? If a lion bites your side mirror off in the Kruger National Park, you’re covered, but if your own little kitty cat at home runs her claws down the side of your car, you aren’t?
That’s exactly it, as it turns out.
I checked with Outsurance. Client relations head Natasha Kawulesar said it was a “standard” clause in the company’s policies to exclude any damage caused by domestic animals from cover.
“It is in the nature of domestic animals such as dogs to chew on items.
“Pet owners must take proactive measures to ensure their pets are not disturbed by fireworks during planned events.
“This would also be applicable in areas where severe thunderstorms are the norm.”
But, Kawulesar said, sometimes Outsurance does pay out in the event of pet-caused pandemonium.
“We will consider what caused the pet to behave in the manner in which they did and, although this is an exclusion to cover, we do in certain instances provide benefit to clients, especially if it is the first incident of this nature.”
And under their policy contents cover there is a bonus benefit of R1,000 towards vet bills.
Several companies provide specific, comprehensive medial cover for pet injuries and diseases.But what Eliasov really wanted to know was whether Outsurance’s “Loss of or damage to the vehicle caused by animals (excluding domestic animals)” clause meant that if he hit a dog, cat, or even a horse or cow – technically also domestic animals – with his car, his damage claim would be rejected?The answer is no.The exclusion is all about damage caused to homes or cars directly by problem pets, not damage caused to a car as a result of hitting a pet.Awful to have to spell it out like that, but that’s insurance for you.Depending on the breed of dog you have, or how badly your cat uses your lounge suite as a scratching post, that could be a very expensive exclusion.If you find an insurer that will offer you cover for one-off dog-damage incidents, you will no doubt have to pay quite a premium.Especially if your pooch is a border collie or Staffordshire bull terrier – of all dogs they are the most predisposed to intense fear of loud noises, such as fireworks.A terrified dog is often a very destructive one.As with all forms of insurance, it really pays to interrogate what you are not covered for. Make no assumptions.Check out the exclusion section of your policy, and call your insurer if you are in any doubt.
An insurance contract is not a template – a contract is a meeting of the minds between two parties, so negotiate cover that suits you and your specific circumstances.
The biggest shock consumers get when they make a claim on their household contents cover is that they are under-insured, according to their insurer, and thus the payout is reduced by the percentage of the under-insurance – often 50%.
Assessors aren’t sent to your house to help you assess the replacement value when you take out the policy, and even if they were, if you were burgled five years later, the amounts would be inaccurate anyway.
So it’s worth doing your own checks on the replacement value of your appliances, electronics, clothing and furniture to avoid losing out.