Ever since you got your dog, they have been a part of your family. You love your dog and would hate to have anything happen. One of the worst-case scenarios for any dog owner is when your pet attacks or bites someone hard enough to break their skin. According to the Insurance Information Institute dog bites accounted for one third of all homeowners insurance liability claims in the United States. So, could your dog raise your home insurance rates?
Unfortunately, we hear about dog-biting incidents way too often in the news. However, it is most devastating when it happens a little closer to home.
When I was younger, my parents took our Shetland Sheepdog on a walk in a new neighborhood. Suddenly, a dog they didn’t recognize came running out of his owner’s yard and started attacking our dog. My dad began to kick at the dog to try to push it away, but this was to no avail. Unfortunately, our dog sustained major internal injuries which resulted in her death two weeks later. The owner of the aggressive dog never made any attempts to prevent the situation from happening and never admitted fault. Any efforts made by my parents to receive payments for our dog’s high medical bills were ignored and the man eventually skipped town, never to be heard from again.
Others who have been in similar situations, where they or their pet was attacked by another dog, may have been a bit luckier. Homeowners insurance agents see many claims each year from similar incidents. Training your dog to behave around new people and speaking with your insurance agent about the breed of dog you own could prevent you from being in a similar situation.
You would never want this to happen, especially if the victim decides to press charges or sues your for the cost of their medical expenses. This is especially terrifying for insurance agents, who may reject your application for homeowners insurance if you own a certain dog breed. According to Bankrate.com, there are 11 breeds that insurance companies regularly consider to be “bad dogs”.
- Alaskan Malamute
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Pit Bull
- Presa Canario
- Siberian Husky
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
- Wolf Hybrid
Of course, just because you own a dog from this list doesn’t mean you are specifically at risk, but that these types of dogs have a higher rate of biting incidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 4.5 million Americans experience a dog bite annually. Children account for half of the bites. Almost 25% of dog bites require a doctor or hospital visit. If you are an employee of the United States Postal Service, you have quite a high risk of being attacked; nearly 5,900 postal workers were bitten in Los Angeles alone.
Why do dogs bite? There are plenty of factors aside from breed that affect a dog’s tendency towards aggression. This includes socialization with other dogs and people outside the family, obedience training, proper care and restraint while on a walk or outside, and whether it has been spayed or neutered.
The reason insurance agents may reject you for coverage is the high annual rate of claims. In the United States in 2012, homeowners insurance liability claims related to dog bites were quite high- almost 33% of the claims. The total was over $490 million, or about $30,000 per claim. In 2014 that number rose to Dog bites in 2014 over $32,000.
Steps to Take
The list provided above is not exclusive. Each insurance agency may have their own list of high-risk breeds. In order to increase the likelihood of coverage, it is best to do as much research as you can about the breed: biting incidents, personality characteristics, etc. That way, you can have documentation for your own purposes, and your local underwriter may this into consideration when determining your rates.
If you already own a dog that is considered high-risk, the best thing to do is to notify your insurance agent. There are plenty of insurance companies available if they deem your dog uninsurable, so shop around and speak to local insurance agents. Sometimes, agents will consider dog training classes or consistent use of safety practices, like muzzling your dog when going for a walk, when determining your rates. It’s always better to have high insurance than no insurance when it comes to lawsuits and medical claims.
Even if your dog is not of a breed considered to be risky, it’s a good idea to have a homeowners policy with higher liability limits. According to the Insurance Information Institute, “Any dog can bite if they are frightened or scared. Children have the highest number of injuries from dog bites.” So train your dog, restrain your dog, and visit animal-friendly organizations for advice on ways to find dog-friendly insurers.
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