Insurance Stories: Animal tales of Insurance

In the next of our ‘insurance stories’ series we look at cases involving our famous furry friends!  Many animals have been insured at Lloyd’s of London over the years, and here are a few notable tales from years gone by.

Lassie & co! 

The cost of insuring Lassie the dog was so high that his owner covered himself at Lloyd’s for $1 million instead. They were always together and he said “If anything happens to him, it happens to me.”

Rin Tin Tin was a dog that worked with the Red Cross during the Great War and would carry bandages to soldiers under heavy fire. In 1918, he was pulled out of a trench near the Hindenburg Line by Lee Duncan, an American soldier who took him back to the U.S. with him.

Once home, he began to teach the dog new tricks. After winning the World Wall-Scaling Championships he was scouted by film-makers and started to appear in movies. At this point, Mr. Duncan insured his ears at Lloyd’s for $4,000.

The dog went on to have his own TV show and appear in 27 films. His chef would cook him t-bone steak every day and a driver would take him to set in his own limo. By the 1920’s, his value had increased so much that he was then insured for $100,000. Living the Hollywood lifestyle to the end, he passed in 1932 on the lap of Jean Harlow.

In 1935, Ms. Harlow insured her own dog against the risk of it being poisoned. However, Lloyd’s would not have paid her a cent if that happened. Instead, they would have sent an investigator to apprehend and prosecute the poisoner.

Hollywood, Pets & Poisoning

Two Hollywood stars once took out insurance at Lloyd’s of London but didn’t want any money if they made a claim.

In 1935, Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford both took out a policy with Lloyd’s against their dogs being poisoned but they wouldn’t have received a cent if they were killed. Instead, Lloyd’s would spend the money on apprehending and prosecuting the poisoner!

Insuring Zoo animals 

In 1954, Pittsburgh Zoo officials paid $9,000 for two giraffes. They subsequently insured them at Lloyd’s of London for their journey to their new home.

They were transported from Hamburg in the hope of breeding them but when they arrived zookeepers discovered that they had in fact, bought two females. The underwriter who had written the $7,000 policy had made a note that the animals bore “no distinguishing marks except difference in sex”.

It wasn’t the first time that Lloyd’s had insured zoo animals. A giant panda was insured for £10,000 during the Second World War as it was being evacuated from London Zoo to Whipsnade.

London Zoo had previously insured an elephant at Lloyd’s after it was purchased for £100,000 by PT Barnum in 1903. Jingo was described as the largest elephant in captivity and was insured for his journey across the Atlantic for £8,000, or £15,000 if the ship carrying him was wrecked.

It soon became evident that Jingo was missing his mate at London Zoo as he refused to eat and began to mope. Strangely, keepers began to feed him whiskey-soaked biscuits three times a day, a gallon of whiskey being used at each meal.

Just days into the trip, Jingo sadly died. His manager said at the time that he had died of a broken heart.

Written by Paul Miller.

Paul is HFG’s in-house historian and is a History Ambassador for the Insurance Museum.

You can find the first of our ‘Insurance Stories’ series here: Movies, Mishaps & Insurance.

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