(CN) – The homeowners’ insurance policy of a couple who ran an exotic animal rescue and exhibition business out of their farm does not cover a tiger attack, the 10th Circuit ruled. A Siberian tiger attacked and fatally injured a 17-year-old girl during her senior picture photo shoot.
Keith and Sharon Billingsley had rescued the tiger through their Lost Creek Animal Sanctuary, a nonprofit they ran in conjunction with a for-profit exhibition partnership called Animal Entertainment Productions.
The Billingsleys funded the sanctuary by showing rescued zoo and circus animals at magic shows and other events.
A volunteer at the sanctuary, Haley Hildebrand, asked to have her senior pictures taken with a tiger.
The Billingsleys’ son, Doug, a trained animal handler, picked out a tiger named Shaka for the shoot. But something went wrong, and he lost control of the tiger. It attacked Hildebrand, and she later died from her injuries.
Hildebrand’s father sued the Billingsleys for wrongful death, and the Billingsleys filed a claim with Safeco Insurance Company of America, their homeowners’ insurance provider.
Safeco argued that it wasn’t required to provide coverage, because the homeowners’ policy excluded business pursuits like the exotic animal shelter and entertainment business.
Both the district court and the Denver-based appellate panel agreed.
“The homeowners’ policy does not apply to the Billingsleys’ exotic animal rescue and exhibition business, nor does any other exception in the policy apply to the facts of this case,” Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote for the three-judge panel.