Pets (dogs, cats, etc.): what does the civil liability guarantee cover?


Insure your pets to anticipate possible incidents Photo credit: GettyImages

Pet owners are legally responsible for this. In the event of damage, they may be covered by the civil liability guarantee included in their multi-risk home insurance contract. In what situations? What animals are affected? What happens if you entrust your animal to a third party? It is essential to anticipate a possible incident.

Summary:

  • Civil liability and pets

  • What happens if you give custody of your pet?

  • Claim your insurance in the event of damage caused by your animal

  • Which animals are covered by the civil liability guarantee?

  • The special case of so-called “dangerous” dogs

Civil liability and pets

According to the Civil Code, the owner or the person in charge of the animal is liable for any damage caused by the animal. This liability is effective even if the animal has wandered off or escaped. In other words, you are legally responsible for any type of damage caused whether material (furniture, carpets, clothing, garden) or bodily (bite, scratch).

Damage caused by pets can be covered by the civil liability guarantee included in all multi-risk home insurance contracts. However, this insurance only covers third parties and does not include damage caused to “persons named in the contract” (you, your spouse, your children), nor to their property.

Concretely, if your dog tears your new sofa, your insurer will not compensate you. It will be the same if he bites a family member. In this case, your

home insurance will not cover care related to health costs and you will not be covered for potential moral or aesthetic damage. To cover household members, you must take out an insurance option or extension:

Life Accident Guarantee (GAV), individual accident guarantee, family protection, etc.

Check with your insurance company, because the concept of “family” differs from one contract to another. Certain contracts taking, for example, in charge of the ascendants, or the relatives of the insured not living under his roof.

What happens if you give custody of your pet?

If you entrust your animal to a relative, neighbor or friend for several days, the law considers a “transfer of responsibility” to the person who has temporary custody. This person is then considered to be legally responsible in the event of an accident or damage. Therefore, its own civil liability insurance is engaged. This is all the more true if you entrust your animal to a professional (kennel, personal services company or veterinary clinic), the latter must be covered by adequate insurance and be able to provide you with a certificate.

Be careful, therefore, if you welcome the animal of a relative, or if you entrust your own. Some insurance contracts only cover damage caused by the animal owned by the insured. The notion of transfer of responsibility only applies after a certain period. If a neighbor takes your dog for a walk or feeds your cat while you’re away, you remain legally responsible for your pet.

Claim your insurance in the event of damage caused by your animal

If your dog bites the neighbours’, destroys their garden or tears their clothes, your liability insurance will compensate them. As with any claim, both parties must draw up a declaration and send it to their insurer within 5 days of the accident. Depending on the amount of damage, an expert may be commissioned. The victim must keep the invoices and all useful elements: photos, testimonials… However, some contracts provide for a deductible even if this type of claim does not entail any penalty for the owner of the pet.

In the event of bodily injury (bite, injury, etc.), you must make a declaration to your insurance company and the victim receives a questionnaire in return where he must detail all the bodily, aesthetic, moral and financial damage. A medical advisor can be requested by your insurer to confirm the damage and set the amount of compensation. If the victim lodges a complaint, the compensation is suspended until the penal decision. You incur up to 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros, which of course remains your responsibility.

For any bite, you must report the incident to the town hall and have your dog examined three times by a veterinarian over a period of 15 days. The objective is to verify that he is not a carrier of rabies.

You can be relieved of your responsibility if you provide proof that the victim threatened or excited the animal. This is also the case if you manage to prove that a third party caused the accident by opening the gate for your dog, for example.

Which animals are covered by the civil liability guarantee?

In addition to dogs and cats, insurance contracts generally include rodents (hamster, mouse, dwarf rabbit), birds (parrot, canary, dove), aquarium fish or even certain turtles. They can also take care of goats, hens or sheep under certain conditions (limitation of the number of animals or maximum grazing area). Each company has its own list, and it is sometimes mandatory to declare certain animals. Therefore, always take care to notify your insurer, he will be able to specify the limits of guarantee and exceptional coverage.

Your home insurance does not cover damage caused by your animals in the context of a professional or commercial activity (sale or exhibition, for example). It is then necessary to take out professional civil liability insurance. Similarly, if you practice a sports activity with an animal (such as sled dog racing or horse racing), any damage caused is covered by the insurance taken out under your sports license.

To know

If you are a hunter, you must take out civil liability insurance dedicated to this practice for your dog.

What legislation for NAC (New Pets)?

Holding a NAC is subject to regulation. The administration distinguishes between two types of NAC: domestic species (rodents, fish, birds, farmyard animals, etc.) and non-domestic species (primates, reptiles, spiders, scorpions, etc.). To hold one of these, you must, depending on the species, make a declaration to the prefecture, or even obtain a certificate of maintenance capacity. It is strictly forbidden to import, buy or possess certain species. On the insurance side, non-domestic NACs are generally excluded from the civil liability guarantee of home insurance.

The special case of so-called “dangerous” dogs

Certain types of dogs are generally excluded from the civil liability included in the multi-risk home insurance:

  • Attack dogs (category 1, especially pit bulls).

  • Guard or defense dogs (category 2: American Staffordshire, Rottweiler, Mastiff, Tosa).

The possession of these dogs is subject to strict regulations. Their master must be of legal age and possess a detention permit. This is issued on presentation of an evaluation of the dog’s behavior, a certificate of training for the master and various certificates (identification, sterilization, rabies vaccination, etc.). Having civil liability insurance is compulsory for handlers of category 1 or 2 dogs. If this is your case, contact your insurer to take out an extension of guarantee or a specific insurance contract. In the event of damage caused to third parties, family members are considered as such here.

Theft of your pet

Barring exceptions, the multi-risk home contract does not provide any compensation in the event of theft of your animal.

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