Public liability insurance for dogs – a discussion

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Public liability insurance for dogs

They say that dog insurance is more expensive than cat insurance because you really have to take out public liability insurance for dogs. It is far less important for cats. Why is this? And what is public liability insurance?

Public liability insurance for dogs

Public liability insurance for dogs. Image: Pixabay modified.

Public liability insurance covers a dog owner if the dog causes damage to a person or a person’s property and that person seeks compensation. It seems that there are numerous ways a dog can cause damage of this type. Insurance companies like to refer to a dog on a lead or off the lead when in a public place. The dog might attack somebody out of character or they might knock somebody over causing injury. Or they might run into the road causing a car to swerve to avoid the animal resulting in an accident. Or perhaps the dog is run over and the car is damaged. I guess there are a million different possible scenarios.

It seems to me that a classic situation where public liability insurance might be required as when a dog bites a passerby as happened to me many years ago. I was doing nothing unusual. I was a completely innocent victim of this little dog but suffered quite a bad bite injury which fortunately healed quite quickly and I accepted £50 from the woman in cash and compensation. I was far too amenable as I could have sued her after demanding a lot more money than that.

But the point I have is this. If she hadn’t taken out public liability insurance for her dog and if I had demanded an amount that she was unwilling to pay I would have had to have commenced a lawsuit against her for compensation. Would I have done it? Would I bother? It depends upon the severity of the injury. But I’m sure that a lot of people wouldn’t know where to begin and would be daunted by the prospect of suing a dog owner under these circumstances. Therefore I’m encouraged to believe that people should not take out public liability insurance.

I cannot find raw statistics on how many dog owners do indeed take out this form of insurance. About 3.6 million pet owners ensure their pets in the UK as at 2018. But this does not tell me more specific information. For example, how many cat owners take out this form of insurance? I would suspect that none of them do. Cats are allowed to wander wherever they want to. That’s their right and therefore a person cannot be held accountable if a cat causes injury to a person outside the home. Or can they? It seems to me to be a fraught and vexed issue. What if a domestic cat scratched someone’s car because they liked to jump up onto the car’s hood (bonnet). That’s an instance where public liability insurance could come into effect.

I would doubt if any car owner has sued any cat owner for compensation under these circumstances. I might be wrong but I suspect that a car owner would simply turn to their own insurance for repairs. Or they will leave the damage and accept it. I’m questioning the validity of public liability insurance for pets.

I can see why it is taken out far more often for dogs. Dogs are inherently more dangerous and they are generally much larger than cats. I’m not against pet insurance of any kind. With respect to pet health insurance I would advise saving money and describing that as your personal insurance plan. It’s not ideal because it takes time to save enough and until then you have no plan but it’s within your control and you aren’t paying administration fees and therefore it is cheaper.

I would suggest, although I am not an expert on this matter, that if you are risk-averse and have a dog which has demonstrated a propensity to expose you to a claim for compensation and if you have the money I would take out a pet public liability insurance policy. But select one well because they will have exclusion clauses tucked away in the terms and conditions. And you might consider paying a higher excess in order to reduce the cost of the premiums. This is the best way to manage premium costs.