As timid as your fluffball may be, accidents can and do happen. All it takes is for a visitor to catch your harmless four-legged companion in the wrong mood and the next thing you know, you’re knee-deep in lawyer’s bills and medical expense claims. Luckily, there is a way to make sure you’re covered should you ever find yourself in this undesirable situation.

What is liability cover and why you need it
Most homeowners insurance policies include a portion of liability cover that would pay out if ever an accident or injury had to occur on your premises. This cover is particularly important for homeowners with dogs because the likelihood for accidents or injury to visitors increases when there is a pet in the home.

Are you liable if your dog bites a visitor?
In most cases, a dog owner will be held liable for the damages incurred if his/her dog bites or attacks another person – whether that person was on their property or not. Sadly, not all homeowner’s insurance policies will pay out unless the injury occurred within the home. Homeowners need to take time to read through the terms and conditions very carefully to find out what is covered by the policy and what is not.  

What if your dog bites a home intruder?
Pet owners need to do what they can to prevent injury to intruders. As counter-intuitive as this might be, South African law dictates that those living within cities ought to anticipate intruders and should, therefore, take reasonable precautions, such as putting up a visible warning sign that there is a dog on the premises, to prevent their pet from causing injury to others – including uninvited guests.

Can you fight against unwarranted claims?
If the pet owner feels the claim is unwarranted, some homeowner’s insurance policies will also cover any legal fees incurred during the process of trying to fight against the claim. For this reason, pet owners who live in high-density crime areas might benefit from taking out a more comprehensive policy. Though more expensive, the policy could end up saving them hundreds of thousands of Rands in legal fees.

Looking for more advice? To find out more about the legality of keeping pets in SA, CLICK HERE.