You’ve experienced a fire or water damage in your home. Your house is still standing, everyone is safe, and restoration is underway. Don’t forget about your furry (or scaly or feathery) companions. Do you know what to do with your pets in the event of a loss in your home?
Is Your Pet Covered?
This is a case where things vary vastly from insurance company to insurance company, so you’ll need to discuss it with your agent. It’s very important to let your agent know what types of pets are in the home and how many you have. You may need to have a separate endorsement on your policy to help with charges associated with pet care in the event of a loss. Unfortunately, most policies will not cover veterinary bills or the death of a pet, but, if it is necessary to remove the pet from the home during mitigation, they may cover the cost of boarding the pet or the cost of a hotel that allows animals.
General Rules for Pets
The first step in dealing with pets during a loss is to remove any and all pets from the affected area and keep them away until the completion of mitigation and repairs. Not only do both fire and water damage create potentially unsafe and contaminated environments, it’s also difficult for technicians to work with pets in the area. Dogs, in particular, no matter the size or behavior, need to be kept contained in a room in an unaffected area of the home while technicians are working. Cats are typically content to keep to themselves and don’t usually cause issues for workers in the home. They still need to be kept out of the affected area, though, as much as possible for their health and safety. Small mammals and reptiles also will need to be removed from the affected area, but don’t typically experience issues from the mitigation and restoration process. If the loss was due to water damage and there are dehumidifiers running in the home, it’s a good idea to make sure all pets have access to ample water because the dehumidifier is essentially drying the air and heating the area.
There are some exotic animals that have specific needs when it comes to dealing with damage to a home. Exotic birds need to be removed from the home completely. The noise level created by fans and other drying equipment can be dangerous and cause them to become unstable. They are also very prone to dehydration and overheating. Saltwater fish are another exotic pet that should not be in the home during mitigation. As mentioned, dehumidifies act by pulling moisture from the air, which, in turn, pulls water from the fish tank. As any owner of saltwater fish knows, the levels in a saltwater tank are in a very delicate balance. Saltwater tanks left in a home with dehumidifiers running can become inhospitable within mere hours. These fish should be removed from the home, or the levels must be checked every few hours if removal is not possible. Freshwater fish and their tanks are a bit hardier and less susceptible to issues from the drying process. The safest course of action is still removal from the home, but freshwater fish are typically safe to be moved to an unaffected area of the home if levels in the tank are being checked regularly.
The last thing you want to be worried about after a loss is whether or not your home is still safe for your pets. Talk to your agent and understand your coverage as far as your animals go, and remember that, in general, the best first step to take is to remove all animals from the affected area of the home.