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Life Insurance for Pets: Yes, It Exists. How Does It Work?

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updated: June 9, 2024

Similar to life insurance purchased for a person, pet life insurance pays a benefit if a covered animal dies while the policy is in force. These policies are intended primarily for animals that require a high financial investment or are bred and/or trained to produce revenue for the owner. Examples include:

  • Service dogs and other animals.
  • Valuable and rare breeds.
  • Animals used for breeding.
  • Show dogs, cats, and other animals.
  • Livestock.

The term “pet life insurance” is a bit of a misnomer, as the coverage is really for animals representing significant financial value for the owner. The average family dog or cat may provide priceless companionship, but this type of coverage is not really for them.

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How does pet life insurance work?

“Pet life insurance” is a clearly more marketable name for what is also known as “animal mortality insurance.” Policies typically provide coverage in case a covered animal dies unexpectedly. Many will also cover theft. If these events occur while the policy is in force, the insurer will pay a death benefit to the policy’s beneficiary (usually the animal’s owner). The benefit can then be put toward replacing the animal. To keep the policy in force, the policyholder pays an annual premium to the insurer.

Types of pet life insurance

Policy types include the following:

Limited mortality

These policies pay a death benefit only if the death occurs as the result of a specific cause listed on the policy. The policy contract should list these causes.

Full mortality and theft

These policies pay a death benefit regardless of the cause of death or if the animal is stolen and not recovered.

What does pet life insurance not cover?

A pet life insurance policy will not cover any cause of death that is not listed on the policy. This particularly comes into play with limited mortality coverage, in which the policy lists only specific causes of death that it will cover.

Pet life insurance also does not provide coverage for regular care and veterinary costs, nor does it cover incidents in which the pet causes bodily harm or property damage.

Pet life insurance vs. pet insurance vs. pet liability insurance

Pet life insurance shouldn’t be confused with pet insurance, available from companies such as Embrace. Pet insurance, which has grown increasingly popular in recent years, helps pay for veterinary bills. Think of it as health insurance for your pet.

Pet liability insurance coverage comes into play if your pet damages property or injures someone not in your household (for example, a dog bite). Check with your homeowners or renter’s insurance provider to see if your policy offers liability coverage for your pets. If not, you can get coverage from a company such as Prime Insurance Company.

Pet life insurance pros and cons

Pros:

  • Coverage if the animal dies unexpectedly or is stolen and not recovered
  • Pays a death benefit that can be used to replace the animal

Cons:

  • High cost
  • Not financially worthwhile for the average pet owner
  • Does not provide veterinary or liability coverage

Benefits of pet life insurance

The key benefit of pet life insurance is that it provides financial protection if a highly valuable animal should die unexpectedly. In this case the term “valuable” means the animal costs a significant amount of money in breeder or training fees or has the potential to earn significant revenue for its owner.

How much does pet life insurance cost?

The cost of coverage will depend on the type of animal, breed, age, and other factors. It will also depend on the amount of the death benefit, which the policyholder can specify when buying coverage. To determine if it really makes sense to buy pet life insurance, you need to consider the cost of coverage relative to the animal’s financial value.

Insurify states that policies range from approximately $250 to $900 annually. Such an investment might be worthwhile for an animal expected to fetch thousands of dollars worth of breeding fees or a service dog that costs $25,000 to train. However, it would likely not be worthwhile for the average family pet, even a purebred.

How to get pet life insurance

Unless the market for pet life insurance suddenly expands dramatically in the near future, finding this coverage can be a bit of a challenge. An online search for “pet life insurance” will mostly turn up results for standard pet (veterinary) insurance. Consider contacting an independent insurance agent who can check the carriers they represent to help you get the coverage you need.

We did find information for a few options online.

  • The Hartford offers coverage for police and service dogs through its Specialized Livestock and Animal Mortality Insurance program.
  • Ark Agency Animal Insurance Services specializes in insurance for horses. It also offers coverage for dogs, cattle, and other animals.
  • Sanger Insurance provides coverage for service, show, and breeding dogs as part of its agricultural insurance offerings.

TIME Stamp: Pet life insurance is for high-value animals

Never heard of pet life insurance before today? Don’t feel bad. The name is a bit misleading, as the coverage is designed for show animals, service dogs, livestock, and other animals that represent a large financial investment by the owner, not the average household pet. A pet life insurance policy provides a death benefit payout if the covered animal dies unexpectedly or, in some cases, is stolen and not recovered.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What does pet life insurance cover?

Pet life insurance generally pays a death benefit if a covered animal dies unexpectedly or is stolen and not recovered. Policy details vary, so check your policy contract to understand exactly what yours covers.

Is pet life insurance worth it?

For the majority of pet owners—those who seek nothing more from their pets than love and companionship—pet life insurance is likely not worthwhile. The coverage is really intended for those who own animals of extremely high value (exotic/rare breeds or livestock); service animals that require a large, up-front investment; or show animals expected to earn money through contest winnings, stud fees, or brand endorsements.

Are there age restrictions for pet life insurance?

Pet life insurance policy rules and restrictions vary by policy. Check with your insurer to understand if there are any restrictions based on your animal’s age.

Does my homeowners insurance personal contents coverage pay if my pet dies?

Although you might argue that your pet is a “possession,” standard homeowners insurance typically does not provide coverage for a pet’s unexpected death. A sample Allstate homeowners policy contract, for example, specifically states that animals are not covered under the policy’s personal contents coverage (Coverage C).

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