When you own tigers, you’re in a unique position to insure tigers

“I’ve got 18 of ‘em … so I practice what I preach.”

When you own tigers, you’re in a unique position to insure tigers

Insurance News

By Sam Boyer

When it comes to insuring big cats, it pays to have some hands-on experience with lions, tigers, and leopards. Just ask Mitchel Kalmanson, principal and owner at Lester Kalmanson Agency, in Maitland, Florida.

“I’ve got 18 of ‘em,” Kalmanson said. “Lions, tigers, the leopard just died, cougar, and I’ve got Russian foxes … I’ve got a domesticated mink, and some hoofstock. I think 13 are tigers, specifically. So I practice what I preach.”

So he knows what he’s insuring. But as well as insuring his own animals, Kalmanson covers liability and mortality for performing and pet animals, as well as special animal events, and all facets of circus insurance.

As the company’s website boasts, it specializes in “insuring rare and unusual risks, especially when it comes to risks associated with animals. Simply put, we cover the wild, the weird, and the wacky.”

It’s a niche Kalmanson fell into after growing up around exotic animals, and wanting to consciously avoid fighting for customers in more crowded insurance markets.

“I wanted to get into the niche. I didn’t want to get into the day in, day out [stuff],” he said. “I didn’t want to get involved with the offices, the homeowners, the businesses. I wanted to do something different. There are too many people chasing the same thing.”

And, with his background, Kalmanson was uniquely placed to take on big cats and performance animal insurance, he said.

“There are very few [insurers in this space] that have the experience, the authority, with both the insurance licences and the animal licences, and with my knowledge,” he noted.

Kalmanson has been accused by animal welfare advocates – whom he calls animal terrorist groups –of mistreating his animals. However, the insurer has refuted all accusations and says his big cats live long, healthy lives.

Are you a program specialist? Download our free whitepaper to understand how to evaluate program carriers, and find a partner that shares your specialty mindset.

In his insurance niche, he manuscripts third-party liability coverage for exotic and dangerous animals, first-party animal mortality, individual and commercial exposures, and also provides coverage for contracted and leased animals in circuses.

He also manuscripts special event insurance – as recently as last week he covered a Playboy photoshoot with three models and a tiger in a studio, he said.

While much of his coverage is for private exotic animal owners, circuses remain an area that requires specialized risk coverage.

“Look, it’s America,” he said. “For entertainment, people still want to go to circuses, people still want to see animals, people still want to get entertained... They want to go to things that are abnormal or different, rather than going to a movie theatre or a mall.”

But sometimes people don’t do what they’re supposed to do around animals, whether at home with their pets or at a fair or circus, Kalmanson said.

“They get bit, they get hit, they get swiped – a cat may grab ‘em and tear ‘em up with a claw – but usually that’s a human error, not an animal error,” he explained. “Does it happen? Absolutely, or we wouldn’t be in business. Does it happen that often? Yes. Can it be mitigated? Absolutely.”

Related stories:
Calls made for animal parks to carry insurance for dangerous animals
Dog breeds with the most and least expensive insurance rates

Keep up with the latest news and events

Join our mailing list, it’s free!