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Lions and Tigers and Insurance, Oh My!

As a Texan, I can tell you that my fellow “countrymen” nurse one of many bad habits. I call this one “the urge to poke the rattlesnake.” It’s an inevitable combination. A redneck. Beer. A rattlesnake (or any other dangerous animal.) Poking — and likely a trip to the emergency room — will ensue. Our legislature is famous for inane bills, but Rep. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville has proposed a piece of legislation that speaks to an aspect of that rattlesnake-poking mentality.

Hillenbran’s bill would increase the amount of insurance required of people who own dangerous animals and would prohibit those animals from being housed within five miles of a school, daycare, or church. Even better, to my animal-loving mind, is that two acres of property would be required per registered animal. (The state requires a permit with either the local animal control entity or the sheriff’s office to have such critters.) Hilderbran also wants to see better record keeping including disclosure of prior ownership and conditions of sale to prevent the black market trafficking of animals.

Now, for the most part, we talk about pretty standard kinds of insurance here. If “pet” insurance comes up, we mean dogs and cats, not cheetahs and giraffes. But this is a good place to consider the fact that often we seek insurance policies to protect us against liability for activities in which we engage that might cause harm to other people — as in other people who would go find a lawyer and sue.

Ever heard of strict liability? This means behavior that is unavoidably dangerous and in which negligence is not a factor in determining responsibility in a court of law. One of the classic examples is owning a tiger. There is no degree of care that will ever completely erase the risk of owning a tiger as a pet or of the potential, lethal harm that tiger might cause if he escapes and, in fear, acts the way a tiger is going to act just due to the fact that he is a tiger.

So, if you own a tiger, you better be insured, to the extent that it is possible to be insured, because you are knowingly assuming a risk that can not only effect yourself but other people. This, obviously, can apply to a wide variety of scenarios, but it’s a good thing to stop and ponder for a minute. We don’t like to think we have to have auto insurance, but the instant we’re in a car crash with someone else and we’re responsible for that person’s injuries and damage, that insurance policy is the best thing since sliced bread.

Risk, liability, and your pocket book. Those are your thoughts for the day.

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