If the dog causes damage: Which insurance covers it?

Dusseldorf. The dog suddenly runs across the street and causes an accident. Or you look after a strange cat and it destroys an expensive vase. In such cases, the animal owner can face high costs. Animal owners are legally obliged to compensate for any damage caused by their animal. However, there is insurance cover for damage to third parties through private or pet owner liability insurance.

Which insurance for which animal?
Roland Stecher is an insurance expert at the Bremen Consumer Center. He explains which insurance is necessary for which animal: “Owners of cats, rabbits or birds have it easy – most pets are covered by private liability insurance, which we generally recommend for everyone.” Water damage from the aquarium is also more important for tenants Part of private liability, but for some damage the insured tap water risk from household contents insurance also applies here. However, wild or exotic animals such as snakes and spiders are not always covered. Accordingly, owners should carefully check which damages are actually covered by the respective insurer. Sometimes the offers from individual providers differ significantly. The best way to do this is to summarize your needs and ask whether they are fully covered. This can and should be confirmed in writing by the insurance company. If necessary, further clauses can then be included, which can mean an increase in contributions.

Dogs and horses, however, cannot be insured under private liability insurance. There is separate animal owner liability insurance for them, which is even regulated by law in some federal states. There is currently a general requirement for dog liability insurance in Berlin, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia. The only federal state with no mandatory insurance requirement for dogs is Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In the other countries, these requirements only apply to selected animals, such as certain breeds or individual dogs that are classified as dangerous or dogs of a certain size. The criteria differ in the individual federal states.

What damage is insured?
Liability insurance generally covers damage to third parties or their property that was not caused intentionally. This applies to both direct injuries such as bite wounds and, for example, the case when a dog runs towards a cyclist and the cyclist is frightened, falls and is injured. “If a friend looks after an owner’s cat in their apartment and it causes damage, the insurance will cover it. However, an owner has to pay for damage caused by their own animal in their own home,” says the insurance expert.

What should I pay particular attention to?
You should pay attention to whether additional conditions are also included in the insurance cover: “Normally, not only are the owners insured, but anyone who looks after the animal for the owner in the meantime is also insured and, for example, does not need their own dog liability insurance. “In addition, you should make sure that damage to rental property is taken into account and that the protection also applies in the event of a so-called breach of the owner’s obligations, for example if a dog was not kept on a leash,” explains Stecher. However, animals that have already been shown to exhibit aggressive behavior and have been required to wear a muzzle are exempt from this violation of their owner's obligations. Protection should also apply to stays abroad and unwanted mating acts. “Depending on the breed and size of the dog, dog liability insurance usually covers between 50 and 120 euros per year. We used to recommend at least five million euros for the sum insured, but this value should now be between ten and fifty million euros for new offers.”

In particular, anyone who took out insurance a few years ago should check whether the sum insured corresponds to the current recommendations and whether all clauses, for example regarding the described breach of owner's obligations, are included or whether these need to be updated to the benefit of the insured person.

Pet Supplies Industry Association (IVH) e. v.