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Trusted Choice® insurance agencies urge families to consider risks and liabilities before giving or receiving pets as gifts.ALEXANDRIA, Va., Dec. 1, 2010 — The holiday season often includes images of cute puppies under a Christmas tree or a kitten with a sparkly ribbon around its neck. But before you do your holiday shopping at the pet shop, Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents and brokers recommend considering the risks and liabilities you may also be bringing home.

A new national survey by Trusted Choice® found that 29% of respondents, representing more than 65 million households in the United States, said they have either given or received a pet as a gift. Of those, 73% said they never considered liability or risk factors of pet ownership such as higher insurance rates or the need for specialty coverage.

“Many people don’t understand or take into consideration the huge financial risk and expense they may be presenting along with that cute puppy,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, education and research. “Pet owners are responsible for their pet’s actions and could be held liable if, for example, their animal bites or injures someone or property.”


Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents urge consumers to consider these points before giving someone a pet for the holidays:


• Sick puppy? While the concept of health insurance for pets has received a lot of attention lately, it is important for pet owners to know that this coverage is NOT suitable for everyone. These policies are non-regulated insurance products, so purchasers have no recourse through state insurance regulators if there is a complaint or problem with their coverage. In addition, many pet insurance policies exclude routine examinations, vaccinations and pre-existing conditions. This coverage may have some merit for certain pet owners, but consumers should research any pet insurance product carefully before buying it.


• Is Fido a biter or a chewer? As a dog owner, you can be held financially responsible if your animal attacks and injures a person or property. That bite can also have huge implications for your insurance. Most people are bitten by dogs they know, not strays. About 50% of all dog bites happen on the owner’s property according to the Insurance Information Institute. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says children are the victims of about half of the 800,000 dog bites that are reported yearly in the United States, with the highest rate among children ages five to nine and many requiring medical attention. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10% of children (7.5 million) in the United States do not have health insurance. Talk with your independent agent before you bring a new pet into your home to make sure you have adequate liability coverage and inquire about safety measures to take to protect your family and those who visit your property.


• What kind of dog is that? Many insurers are now routinely asking in their policy applications if homeowners or renters have dogs and if those dogs have a history of aggressive behavior. Some companies may even deny coverage to those who own certain breeds of dogs, including wolf hybrids, pit bulls and Rottweilers. Insurance companies can deny claims or limit coverage for dog owners who do not take precautions to prevent their animals from attacking. Many agents recommend at least $500,000 in liability protection for owners of large dogs or for those who own certain breeds.


• How much was that doggy in the window? Pet owners must understand that no matter what they paid for their pooch (or any pet), most homeowners insurance policies exclude any damage or injury to animals. So if your pet is injured or killed in a fire or other disaster, it is not likely you will be able to claim it as a loss with your insurance company.


• Cruisin’ with canines. Some auto insurers are now including a pet clause which allows for a certain amount of coverage for expenses relating to your dog’s injuries in the event that you are involved in an accident when your dog is in the vehicle. Ask your independent agent about the availability of this special coverage.


• Beyond cats and dogs. Does your little princess want a pony? Or maybe your future farmer wants a baby goat? These types of gifts are not uncommon, especially with the popularity of state fairs, livestock competitions and youth agriculture programs. Families who are considering the purchase of horses, goats, calves, pigs and other farm animals may want to consider livestock or animal mortality products that cover certain losses, including drowning and electrocution. These are considered specialty products, though, and are not available through all agents.


”Independent insurance agents not only advise clients about insurance, but they’re risk and liability experts,” says Robert Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO. “We recommend meeting with a Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent who is an expert in assessing your risks and insuring that you and your family know what you’re getting into before adding a pet to your household.”


The survey was conducted for Trusted Choice® via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR), an independent research company in Media, Pa. Interviews of a nationally representative sample of 1,048 households were conducted in November 2010. The survey has an overall margin of error of +/- 3.1%. For more information about ICR, go to www.icrsurvey.com.


For more information on the survey results or to request an interview with a national spokesperson or local insurance agent in your area, please contact Sue Nester (broadcast), (703) 706-5448, susan.nester@iiaba.net or Margarita Tapia (print) at (703) 706-5374, margarita.tapia@iiaba.net.


Trusted Choice® was launched by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”) and independent agency companies. It is the premier consumer brand for independent insurance agents and provides national advertising and other strategic tools to reach consumers. Trusted Choice® educates consumers about the benefits of using independent agents and brokers for their insurance needs: choice of companies, customized policies and advocacy support. Trusted Choice® is the consumer marketing identity for more than 11,000 independent insurance agencies and brokerage firms and 58 leading insurance companies. For more information, go to www.TrustedChoice.com.