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For some people, dogs are furry family members. They come on vacations and tag along when their owners run errands, and for some pets, car rides are the highlight of their day. Unfortunately, cars can pose a serious health risk to pets. Even a fairly minor accident can cause a dog to be knocked around inside a vehicle, leading to injuries or death. Worse, an unrestrained pet poses a safety hazard for the driver; the pet might be a distraction, or the animal could cause injuries to a human passenger when it’s dislodged after an accident.
Veterinary care can be very costly, and most insurance companies will not pay to cover the cost of care if your pet is injured in an auto accident. Your pets cannot be covered under your homeowner’s policy either, leaving the burden of paying their medical bills on your own pockets. Considering the other expenses associated with car accidents, such as deductibles, the out-of-pocket costs of injured animals can cause a real financial difficulty.
Can I Get Insurance for My Pet?
In response to a growing demand for pet protection, Progressive began offering insurance to pet owners. The coverage was initially offered on motorhome policies, but it is now available to add to all auto policies. At present, no other insurance companies offer this same coverage, so Progressive has a definite advantage over competitors. In the future, other insurers may begin offering it as well, especially if it seems popular; other programs that Progressive pioneered, like the Snapshot program, have spread to other companies.
There are some limitations to the coverage. Although it doesn’t cost anything to add the pet coverage to your policy, Progressive will only pay a maximum of $500 toward veterinary expenses. Depending on the extent of the dog’s injuries, this will only cover a fraction of the cost; severe injuries can easily cost several thousand dollars.
Progressive’s pet insurance policy also only covers injuries sustained by a dog or cat that’s injured while a passenger in a vehicle. If your pet is hit by a car, your auto insurance will not cover those injuries. Nevertheless, for a free additional coverage, the peace of mind offered is definitely worthwhile, and other insurance companies will hopefully begin providing similar coverage in the future.
Protecting Your Pet While in a Car
Until pet insurance becomes more widespread among car insurance providers, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution when your pets are in the car. Be sure to follow some basic safety precautions to keep the pets safe and secure wherever you go:
— Keep the animal secured
You can keep the pet in a crate, gate off the rearmost portion of a van or SUV or place the animal in a specially-designed seatbelt harness. No matter what method of restraint you use, be sure that the animal is secured so that it will not be thrown around the cabin of the car after a collision.
— Don’t let it stick its head out the window
Your pet can get debris in its eyes by sticking its head out the window. It may also attempt to jump out, which can lead to injuries and even cause a car accident if the pet jumps out into oncoming traffic.
— Don’t put the dog in the back of an uncovered pickup
Although you may see dogs running in the back of a pickup, it’s not safe for the dog and it poses a hazard to other people on the road. The dog can jump out, causing injuries and potential traffic accidents. If the pet is leashed, it may hang itself by attempting to jump out. The animal is also not protected if the truck is in a roll-over accident.
— Practice short trips first
Before taking your pet out on a long drive, practice with a few short trips around the block to get it acclimated to the sound and motion. This will reduce the animal’s stress and help prevent it from panicking while restrained on a long journey.
By maintaining safe driving habits with your pet, you can reduce its chances of being injured in an auto accident. If you determine that your pet cannot comfortably and safely travel, you can find an alternative way to share time with the animal, such as walking or bike-riding to nearby errands. You’ll both get some exercise, and the reduced time spent driving will help lower your risk of a car accident as well.