Home & Liability Insurance

If you own a dog and cat, you should carry liability Insurance, here are the reasons why.

Picture of bay and a Golden Retriever in the backyard

According to the most recent National Pet Owners Survey (2017-2018), conducted by the American Pet Products Association http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp, some 68 percent of American households have a pet. That works out to about 84.6 million homes with 89.7 million dogs. Those are heartwarming figures if you love dogs but they also come with a note of caution. The more dogs there are, the more chances there are of dog bites and other dog-related damage.

Dog bite statistics can be a little wonky online, depending on where you find them and how they are presented. However, if we look at numbers from the AVMA https://www.avma.org/public/Pages/Dog-Bite-Prevention.aspx, they claim that 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year. Almost 1 in 5 of those people require medical attention. Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children. Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims. Not all of these bites involve homeowners but many do. Before your dog bites someone you will want to make sure that you have liability insurance.

According to State Farm and other sources, Americans filed more than 15,000 home insurance liability claims in 2015 due to dog bites and other dog-related injuries, costing insurers about $570 million. That sum was about one-third of all homeowner claims paid in 2015.

Homeowners insurance policies

Homeowners sometimes get the idea that insurers don’t like dogs but that’s not really true. Most home and renters insurance provide some amount of liability coverage related to dog bites and/or attacks. They often cover up to $100,000 or in some cases $300,000 in damages. Dog owners will be responsible for costs beyond these amounts. However, if you have dogs, it’s often a good idea to increase your coverage or buy an umbrella policy to be more fully covered. You can also look for supplemental insurance or specialized liability insurance that has dog owners specifically in mind.

Your home insurance policy typically covers your spouse, relatives, and dependents who are under 21 years old. These people would be protected from losses related to a dog bite or injury and they won’t be able to file a claim with they are the subject of an attack. Most policies also cover unpaid dog sitters and dog walkers if your dog bites or injures them while he is in their care.

Do insurers exclude some breeds?

It can depend on the insurance company, but some insurers may not cover all breeds. Rightly or wrongly, some insurers can deny or restrict coverage if you own a certain breed. Or they can require a homeowner to sign liability waivers for any bites that may happen. If your dog attacks someone, they may drop your coverage or raise your premium. Insurers

These are the breeds that tend to raise red flags for some insurers, though the list can vary somewhat depending on the company.

  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Wolf Hybrid

Companies may also consider special training a dog has received, AKC Canine Good Citizenship titles, obedience and therapy dog work, and other factors that could show a dog is well-behaved. Obviously, if the dog has a poor history of aggression that will count against him.

Companies that don’t discriminate against breeds

There are some companies that look at the individual dog instead of his breed. The following companies have a reputation for insuring breeds that some other companies have excluded:

  • Amica
  • Chubb
  • Fireman’s
  • Nationwide
  • State Farm
  • USAA

These companies are known for looking at individual dogs instead of breeds. If you have a breed that has been blacklisted by other insurance companies, you should try some of these companies, especially if your dog has a good temperament.

Is it legal for insurers to blacklist certain breeds?

Yes, it is legal in most states. If you live in Pennsylvania or Michigan it’s illegal for insurers to exclude dogs from homeowners insurance based on breed but in all other states, insurance companies can choose which breeds they want to cover – or not cover.

What if your insurer denies your homeowners coverage because of your dog?

The first thing to do is to talk to your insurance agent. Ask them to recommend another insurer that could cover you and your home.

If that’s no good, start shopping for homeowners coverage. Contact multiple providers and compare quotes. See who offers you the best rates regardless of what kind of dog you have.

Remember that many insurance companies don’t turn down homeowners with certain breeds automatically. Agents may ask you to show letters from your vet or your dog’s certificate from obedience school testifying to his good behavior. An agent may even visit your home and meet your dog before making a decision about covering you and your dog.

Some insurers will provide homeowners coverage but they won’t include your dog in the policy. If this is the case, you may be able to buy a separate liability policy for your dog. Many companies and groups offer this kind of coverage today that provides protection for homeowners with a dog that could injure someone. You may have to pay an added expense for this kind of special insurance but you are being a responsible dog owner and meeting your obligations.

If you’re really having a hard time finding a company or group that will provide insurance for you and your dog, contact your state insurance commissioner’s office. They should be able to direct you to an insurer.