Insurance for Exotic Animal Owners: A Comprehensive Guide

Owning exotic animals can seem like an exciting prospect, but it also comes with significant responsibilities. Exotic pets have specialized needs that may require specialized care and facilities. They may also pose risks that domestic pets do not. For these reasons, it is crucial for exotic animal owners to have the proper insurance in place. 

Defining Exotic Animals

Before exploring insurance options, let’s define what is considered an “exotic” animal. In general, exotic animals refer to species that are not traditionally kept as pets or livestock in North America. They include animals like:

  • Primates (monkeys, apes, etc.)
  • Big cats (lions, tigers, leopards, etc.)
  • Bears
  • Wolves, coyotes, foxes
  • Venomous reptiles (snakes, lizards, etc.)
  • Large reptiles (alligators, crocodiles, large lizards)
  • Rabbits, rodents, and birds not traditionally kept as pets

Keep in mind that some animals may be considered exotic in some jurisdictions but not others. Local regulations will also determine which species require special permits to own. Exotic animal insurance considers reptiles, non-domestic dogs and cats, and most hoofed or feathered animals to be exotic.

Understanding Risks

Owning exotic animals presents certain risks that standard homeowner’s or renter’s insurance does not cover. Exotic pets have strong instincts, and many are powerful, with the potential to cause serious damage or injury if they escape or become aggressive. Some key risks include:

  • Bites or attacks on people, resulting in medical bills or liability claims
  • Escapes from enclosures that could endanger public safety
  • Property damage caused by large or highly active exotic pets
  • Transmission of zoonotic diseases from exotic pets to people
  • Regulatory fines or penalties for violations of permit requirements

Because of these risks, conventional insurance providers are often unwilling to insure properties housing exotic animals without specialized coverage through a company that understands these exposures.

Types of Insurance for Exotic Animals

There are a few main types of insurance that exotic animal owners should prioritize:

1. Exotic Pet Liability Insurance

This provides coverage if your exotic pet harms someone or damages their property. A biting incident from even a smaller exotic species could result in tens of thousands in medical bills. An escape that leads to a public safety incident could mean six-figure liability claims.


Reputable exotic pet liability policies provide at least $1,000,000 in coverage per occurrence. Some options allow you to purchase higher limits if you have particularly large or dangerous species.

2. Exotic Animal Mortality Insurance

Also known as “death cover,” this reimburses you if one of your exotic pets passes away. Veterinary bills for exotic species can be exponentially higher than for domestic pets. Mortality insurance ensures you’re compensated for these costs if an animal dies.

Plans provide predetermined payouts based on the insured value of each animal. Payout amounts may be determined by factors like the species, age, training, or show history. This coverage gives financial protection if you incur a major loss.

3. Property/Loss of Revenue Coverage

For owners of commercial exotic animal facilities like roadside zoos, this adds coverage if property is damaged or business revenue is interrupted. For example, reimbursement if an escaped big cat destroys an enclosure that then closes your park temporarily.

It also covers first-party property loss if one of your own animals destroys fencing or buildings in an incident. These extensions are important commercial protections.

4. Import/Export Insurance

Required if you transport exotic animals internationally. Covers costs of quarantine, veterinary care, and mortality during transport related to import or re-export of exotic animal inventory.

Choosing an Insurer

Not every provider writes exotic animal policies. Here are some reputable insurance markets that specialize in this niche:

  • Gallagher Zoo Program: Access to high-limit liability policies and custom programs from various insurers. Strong experience in zoos and roadside parks.
  • Knapheide Animal Care Program: Offer mortality, liability, and property policies. Good fit for small, hobby-level exotic pet owners.
  • ZooPro Insurance: Standout provider insures many major AZA zoos. Expertise in unique policy construction for rare/complex risks.
  • Farmers Insurance: More mainstream carriers but have an established exotic animal product line.
  • Hagan Insurance Group: Specialists that cover a wide range of exotic and rare animals.

When choosing, consider reputation, expertise, ease of the application/renewal process, and transparency in quoting. Prices vary greatly by risk—exotic policies aren’t standardized—so get quotes from multiple insurers.

Policy Considerations

Within your chosen policy, pay attention to important details like:

  • Animal schedules – Ensure all your current animals are listed and priced correctly to avoid disputes later.
  • Professional liability – Covers legal defense costs if accused of negligence/poor animal care. Crucial for zoological facilities.
  • Permit conditions – Policy must comply with any restrictions in your governmental permits or licenses.
  • Crisis management – Some include PR services if an incident receives media attention. A value-add in sensitive cases.
  • Escape/ retrieval coverage – Reimburses for efforts to recapture an exotic pet that escapes confinement. Can avoid financial stress in emergencies.

Getting the right coverage upfront prevents problems down the road if a claim arises. Work closely with your broker during underwriting.

Determining Your Insurance Needs

To decide what type and level of coverage is right for your situation, consider these key factors:


Larger/more dangerous species usually cost more to insure. Venomous reptiles or big cats involve higher risks than small exotic birds. Policies may exclude particularly risky species.

Number of Animals

More animals increase exposure and premium costs exponentially rather than linearly. High animal counts indicate a professional operation.

Public Access and Interaction

No public access is a lower risk than open parks or educational programs. Petting zoos require ample liability protection.

Housing and Security

Stricter enclosures, locks, and barriers lower the chances of escape and reduce rates. Professionally engineered facilities demonstrate safety controls.

Experience and Training

Seasoned, certified owners present lower risks than novices. Prior incidents or violations hurt insurability. Formal training benefits.

Revenue and Assets

Commercial facilities with significant revenue on-site necessitate greater property and loss of income protection than hobby collections.

Assessing these criteria will help you target the appropriate coverage amounts, optional add-ons, and policy structures required by your unique situation. Consult with your broker throughout.

Maintaining Coverage

Even after securing an exotic animal policy, proactive steps can help maintain continuous affordable protection:

  • Performed routine facility maintenance, enclosure checks, and safety drills. Documentation demonstrates risk management diligence.
  • Obtain required licenses, permits, and certifications on schedule through continuing education. Shows compliance with regulations.
  • Promptly report any minor property damage, escapes, or altercations to your broker, even if a claim isn’t filed. Opens dialogue on issues before becoming severe.
  • Periodically review listed values and limits to ensure scheduled animals and revenue projections stay accurately represented.
  • Cooperate fully during policy renewals, underwriting inspections, or claim investigations. Insurers appreciate transparency.
  • Consider supplemental training courses in behavior, veterinary care, or safety drills. Investing in expertise lowers future exposures.

Diligent risk management signifies to insurers that you take safety seriously, supporting continued affordable coverage long-term.

Common Exotic Pet Insurance Scenarios

Here are examples of insurance needs for some common exotic pet circumstances:

Pet Monkey Owner

  • Comprehensive personal liability of $1M+
  • Mortality coverage for veterinary costs if the monkey passes
  • No property coverage is needed

Small Reptile Breeder

  • $1M liability
  • Mortality on breeding stock animals
  • Property coverage for structures, reptile housing

Drive-Thru Safari Park

  • Multimillion liability limits
  • Property coverage for buildings, fences, animal enclosures
  • Business interruption from extended closure
  • High liability limits for injury from vehicle/large animal interactions

Zoo With 200+ Animals

  • $5M+ general liability aggregate
  • $1M product liability for animal sales/transfers
  • Property schedule to fully insure buildings/contents
  • Mortality schedule priced by species/value
  • Workers compensation for employees
  • Professional liability for accredited zoo credential

Exotic Boarding Facility

  • General liability focusing on slip/fall exposures from public access
  • Higher liability limits for animal injury due to caretaker negligence
  • Property coverage for structures, housing
  • Business interruption from extended closure

Frequently Asked Questions About Exotic Animal Insurance

Even with the detailed information provided above, exotic animal owners may still have questions. Here are answers to some frequently asked insurance questions:

What should I do if I can’t find affordable coverage?

If standard insurers decline your exotic risk, don’t give up. Consult a specialty broker experienced in “hard to place” exposures. They have relationships with surplus markets that provide more customized exotic pet programs. It may take more shopping, but coverage can usually be found. Focus on strengthening risk controls to enhance insurability long-term.

Are there any policy exclusions I should watch out for?

Common exotic policy exclusions include biting/injury from particularly risky species like venomous snakes, coverage territory restrictions, and liability waivers for regulated activities. Carefully review all exclusions upfront. Consider optional endorsements to address any gaps. Document all precautions taken to avoid disputes over the applicability of exclusions.

What about seasonal operations like fairs or drive-thru safaris?

Many insurers offer short-term/seasonal exotic policies for environments only operating for part of the year, like autumn animal attractions. Rates are affordable, but coverage windows are limited to active seasons. Make sure operations and animals are adequately insured during periods. Discuss optional extensions if weather causes longer-than-expected operations.

Can I get reimbursed if local bans cause business losses?

Standard property or business interruption policies won’t compensate for revenue losses due to ordinances, law changes, or political climates shifting against exotic animal industries. Some insurers are starting to offer “ordinance or law” endorsements, but coverage is still limited, and premiums are high due to uncertainty. Consult your lobbyist or attorney for risk mitigation strategies here.

What happens if my policy is canceled mid-term?

In rare cases, insurers may cancel partway through a policy period for non-payment or if misrepresented exposure risks surface. Most states require notice to policyholders and a minimum Grace Period for finding replacement coverage. Your broker can assist but act quickly, as uncancellable coverage isn’t guaranteed, and permits may be revoked without active insurance. Focus on strong risk control to avoid cancellations.

Are there any industry association resources that could help?

Yes, trade groups like the American Zoological Association (AZA), Zoological Association of America (ZAA), and National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) offer some member benefits around insurance placement, risk management best practices, or legislative advocacy that could support stable coverage long-term. They also facilitate knowledge-sharing within the exotic community.


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