How A Dog Bite Can Bite Your Home Insurance Rates

Americans love their dogs! All breeds, shapes and sizes, we can’t get enough doggie love!!  I know your dog is the best ever, but for over 30 years the Labrador retriever is American’s breed of choice. And why not, their loving and gentle dispositions make them very attractive to families, especially those with small children. But, as both pet owners and homeowners, we need to understand how the family pet can impact your home insurance rates. 

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Why Does It Matter If I Own A Dog?

Many homeowners ask their agents, “why do you need to know if I own a dog? AND “what difference does it make what breed of dog?” As a professional risk manager, your insurance agent is looking out for your best interest by posing those questions. Try not to let emotion creep into the conversation… it can be easy enough to do so, after all, we’re talking about a member of your family. Your agent is simply bringing to light an often misunderstood coverage, personal liability protection. Unfortunately, there are incidents reported in the news daily of either injury or damage caused by pets. The courts hold homeowners liable for the actions of their pets.  Let’s take a look now at some facts and data that relate to these incidents.

Recent research by the Insurance Information Institute shows that 69% of American households have a dog in residence. In 2020 alone, over $853 million was paid out by insurance companies for dog bite claims. That’s an average of $50,000 per dog bite! And don’t forget, 69% of the households covered by insurance have a dog….. Given this data, it makes sense for an insurance company to inquire about your pet status. 

My Dog Would NEVER Bite Anyone

I know, I know… “my dog has never bitten anyone! … and in all fairness, your probably correct! The sad truth is we cannot predict if or when a dog may bite, they are all capable of biting.  I’ve owned many dogs over the years and all of them (with the exception of my black Lab) nipped me or a family member at some time…Insurance companies look at this as future risk. Remember that $50,000 per bite statistic? Research has also shown that once a dog bites, they will do so again. If you have a dog with a bite history, insurance companies will charge higher annual premiums as long as you own the dog. While bites are the most common claim regarding dogs, they can also cause claims by running into cyclists, running into traffic and causing an accident or knocking down elderly guests or children.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Biting Someone?
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Biting Someone?

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Biting?

  • Get them around people early and often. Start when they’re a puppy and make their socialization a priority. The more often they interact with people at a young age, the better they will respond calmly in an uncertain situation.
  • Train yourself to train your dog. Understand how it thinks. Dogs are pack animals and think completely differently than we do. Speak with a trainer. Read a book. Attending obedience classes is one of the best investments you can make.
  • Be conscientious of roughhousing. If children are playing with the dog, be sure the fun is non-aggressive. It’s better to play fetch than tug of war.
  • Overstimulation often leads to dog bites. Give your dog a chance to rest away from people and kids. Steer clear of stressful situations.

Is A Dog Bite The Only Type of Damage Covered By Home Insurance?

Great question! In addition to bites, dogs can also cause physical damage to a home. Some examples are digging up flower beds, chewing through wires/cables, breaking fences or injuring other pets. Keep in mind, your homeowners policy only covers damage to someone else’s property, the principle of liability at work. Insurance will not pay for damages to your property or injury to residents in your home. 

Insurance companies will and do charge more for insurance coverage for households with dogs due to increased risk claims. Some companies will exclude liability coverage for dogs. Other insurance carriers will often charge a higher annual premium based on the breed of dog. Some breeds that raise questions are Pit Bull, Rotweiler, German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, Chow Chow, Wolf, Akita, Husky and Mastiff. This list is not comprehensive and each carrier rates risk differently. Reviewing this list it is easy to see a pattern…. The larger the dog, the more potential damage possible. Smaller breeds may bite more frequently, but the risk of damage and claims is much smaller. 

What Dog Breeds Are Higher Risk For an Insurance Claim?

The companies argue that the only way to reduce their financial risk is to ban certain dog breeds from coverage. Nonetheless, there are some insurers that do not use a banned dog list and other companies that will allow a household to be insured simply by excluding coverage for liabilities due to damage caused by a dog.

The 14 most often blacklisted dog breeds were:

  1. Pit Bull Terriers
  2. Staffordshire Terriers
  3. Rottweilers
  4. German Shepherds
  5. Presa Canarios
  6. Chows Chows
  7. Doberman Pinschers
  8. Akitas
  9. Wolf-hybrids
  10. Mastiffs
  11. Cane Corsos
  12. Great Danes
  13. Alaskan Malamutes
  14. Siberian Huskies

The benefits to dog ownership far outweigh the challenges. They are energetic, playful and silly. We love how dogs are loyal companions who completely change the daily routines of the people who open up their lives and homes to them. Dog ownership is attributed to a healthier, more active lifestyle and the love that having these special additions to your family bring is indescribable!

If you are looking at buying your first home, own your home but are comparing companies, be sure to contact your Insurance Agent to assist you with understanding and protecting your home and family adequately. 

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