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Are animal sanctuaries required to carry liability insurance?

Mon Mar 27th, 2017 on     Insurance Law,    

There are certain attractions here in Florida that hold universal appeal, meaning chances are good that you’ll go out of the way to pay them a visit regardless of whether you’re a resident, a tourist or even a snowbird. While this, of course, includes the major theme parks, spring training complexes and miles of sandy beaches, it also means historic sites, nature preserves and even animal sanctuaries.

Indeed, our state’s perpetually sunny skies and temperate conditions make it a prime location for animal sanctuaries hosting all manner of mammals, reptiles, fish, insects and birds.

While these animal sanctuaries undoubtedly serve a laudable purpose and even help stimulate commerce in their respective areas, questions naturally arise as to what their requirements are when it relates to liability insurance.

After all, many are not just home to dangerous creatures, but also play host to everyone from paying customers and tour groups to schools.

Are animal sanctuary owners required to have a permit?

The Florida Wildlife Commission dictates that permits must be secured by anyone looking to keep any number of animals, including venomous reptiles, Class I wildlife (chimpanzees, lions, crocodiles, etc.), and Class II wildlife (honey badgers, alligators, ostriches, etc.), to name only a few.

There are roughly 1,137 permit holders in Florida.

Are animal sanctuaries required to carry liability insurance?

It might come as a surprise for people to learn that animal sanctuaries are not required to carry liability insurance in order to operate under state law. Indeed, permit holders have a choice of doing any of the following:

  • Purchasing a $2 million liability insurance policy
  • Paying the FWC $10,000
  • Showing the FWC a $10,000 letter of credit
  • Posting a $10,000 bond with the FWC

While the big name amusement parks likely carry liability insurance in excess of this $2 million threshold, many smaller sanctuaries opt for one of the other options owing to their limited budgets and despite the fact that the animals in their care could easily cause injuries necessitating over $10,000 in medical care to a guest.

Would state lawmakers ever change it so that all animal sanctuaries have to carry liability insurance?

While some victims of animal attacks at these facilities have lobbied for a stronger insurance mandate, experts indicate that lawmakers might be hesitant to go down this road owing to the fact that the cost of liability insurance might put many of these institutions, which do admirable work, out of business.

They also point to validity of waivers signed by volunteers and the assumption of risk on the part of visitors, much like at any sporting event.

Whether you are a business owner who would like to learn more about your options as they relate to an insurance dispute or an accident victim with concerns about underpayment of a claim, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional as soon as possible.

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