BROOMFIELD, Colo. -- It was a beautiful Colorado night, so Jody and Aaron Britton decided to open up the back door of their Broomfield home and let some fresh air in. But they got the complete opposite of fresh air.
“My husband and I were sitting in this room watching TV and in through our backdoor walks our dogs, but in front of our dogs was another creature of sorts,” recalls Jody Britton.
That creature was a skunk, and it immediately sprayed the Brittons dogs, Maya and Charlie, along with their living and dining rooms.
Because it was late at night, it took over an hour for an exterminator to come out and remove the skunk. By the time it was all over, the damage was done.
“Four or five of our wall surfaces got sprayed, both of our couches and easy chair were sprayed and they’re ruined, in the trash, and our curtains were sprayed,” says Aaron Britton.
The Brittons say they’ve tallied the cost so far at more than $9,000, which includes the furniture they had to throw out, the professional cleaning, and re-painting their walls. But the cost could soar to $18,0000 if they have to replace their floors.
“The company that came to do the cleaning mentioned that they think the floors possibly could have been permeated and we’re not going to be able to get it out without possibly replacing the floors,” said Jody.
And it gets worse. The Brittons thought they might recoup some of the costs from their home owner’s insurance, but days after the skunk incident, they got a letter from Allstate informing them that the damage would not be covered.
There’s an exclusion in the policy that states losses are not covered for “vapors, fumes, smoke, smog, soot, alkilis, acids, toxic chemicals, toxic gasses, toxic liquids, toxic solids, waste materials or other irritants, contaminants or pollutants.”
Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, says odor damage is generally not considered the same as physical damage. So a homeowner would be covered if a skunk tore up their walls or couch, but damage from the skunk's spray is not covered.
The Brittons are hoping the smell will eventually come out with continued cleaning. They’re grateful to friends who have helped them with everything from laundry, to repainting. Friends also set up a Gofundme page for the family.
They’re also thankful that their dogswere only sprayed, not bitten by the skunk. In May, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 41 cases of rabies in wild animals so far this year, with a higher number of rabid skunks compared to last year. Two dogs died from rabies in Weld and Yuma counties, the first cases of rabies reported in a canine in over a decade.
Broomfield police say people should avoid leaving any pet food or bird feeders outside that may attrack skunks.