Dog Ownership and Your Home Insurance
Understanding Insurance and Dog Ownership
Dogs make great companions, playmates, and protectors; they are also a problem for insurers. Nearly two million people are bitten by dogs yearly, with around 800,000 requiring professional medical treatment for their wounds. Each of these incidents is a potential lawsuit.
Dogs use their mouths to grab, carry, bite, and play – they have teeth and will bite.
Nearly 40% of America’s households own dogs, and biting incidents keep climbing. A critical factor contributing to these incidents is the failure of dog owners to supervise and train their pets. Another problem is that many persons, especially children, do not know how to behave around dogs.
THE CDC REPORTS THAT CERTAIN PEOPLE ARE MORE PRONE TO DOG BITES, INCLUDING CHILDREN, DOG OWNERS, AND MEN.
Bites may occur when:
- A person stares at a dog, which the animal perceives as a threat or challenge
- People attempt to handle dogs during sensitive moments (while a dog is trying to eat or while nursing puppies)
- Trespassers or house guests invade a dog’s territory
- Someone is “rough-housing” with a dog, and it escalates beyond playing
Factors on Dog Bite Fatalities
In December of 2013, a study by The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). It shared information on factors found in a large majority of reported fatalities caused by dog attacks.
In most fatal incidents, several of the following factors were involved:
- No able-bodied person was present to intervene (87.1%)
- The victim has no familiar relationship with the dog(s) (85.2%)
- The dog(s) owner failing to neuter/spay the dog(s) (84.4%)
- A victim’s compromised ability, whether based on age or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s) (77.4%)
- The owner keeping dog(s) as A resident dog(s) rather than as a family pet(s) (76.2%)
- The owner’s prior mismanagement of the dog(s) (37.5%)
- The owner’s abuse or neglect of dog(s) (21.1%)
Tips to Avoid Dog Bite Incidents
Dogs can be unpredictable; even a dog you know can react negatively and bite or attack. Practice caution and common sense when you are around or interacting with dogs. Below are some tips to help avoid dog bites.
- Only pet dogs you know or have permission to pet by the owner
- Approach unfamiliar dogs slowly and let them sniff you, and get used to you
- Do not approach stray dogs; call animal control; they can capture them safely
- Give dogs space if they are eating, chewing a toy or bone, are sleeping, or have puppies
Your actions matter
- Dogs react to loud noises and activities. They may get excited or agitated.
- Do not run and yell around dogs
- Avoid direct eye contact
- Use a firm voice but do not scream or shout at a dog
- Act calm and back down if needed
- Avoid approaching a dog that appears injured or hurt
An Issue Of Control
An insurance policy aims to respond to incidents and accidents with coverage for the insured. The insurance company is disadvantaged when asked to respond to avoidable dog-related losses. Dog bite claims are problematic because they involve the insured having control over areas such as:
- Choosing to own a dog
- Selecting the particular breed of dog
- Raising the dog in a specific manner
- Housing the dog in a particular manner
- Exposing the animal to various social situations
- Being knowledgeable about a dog’s temperament and inclination to bite or attack
- All of the above elements can contribute to lawsuits and action from an insurer
Homeowners’ Policy and Dogs
If you have homeowners insurance and own a pet, the liability portion of your policy protects losses arising from pet ownership. Not only are you and your household protected, but coverage extends to persons who have custody of your pet. However, your policy won’t cover businesses that may have custody of your pet, such as kennels, obedience schools, groomers, and professional sitters or walking services (they should carry their own coverage). Further, coverage could become problematic if dogs are in a home with unreported, in-home business activity. Incidents involving dog bites while visiting a home-based business may not be covered.
Minimizing The Problem
Owners are responsible for raising and handling their dogs to reduce the chance of loss. Owners should become knowledgeable about their dog breed and understand the general principles of ownership and care. They should ensure that family members, social visitors, neighbors, and strangers are not at risk from the owner’s pet. Owners should also take advantage of resources to help them, such as tips from animal shelters, dog ownership clubs, the AKC, and Internet sources.
Common Dogs Breeds that Make it Hard to Get Home Insurance
The dog breeds listed below are breeds that have the most common dog bite or attack incidents resulting in medical bill payments and liability claims. The compiled dog breed list is a result of statistical data. It’s not collected from anecdotal or personal preferences for certain dog breeds. Depending on the insurance carrier, the list may vary. Some insurance companies have more friendly dog ownership guidelines and may require additional information about the dog, such as if your dog has behaved aggressively or has a bite history. The insurance company may also require you to get additional liability insurance. If you own one of the breeds listed below, consult your agent about your options.
- Alaskan Malamute
- Cane Corso
- Presa Canarios
- Chow Chows
- Siberian Huskies
- Great Danes
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Staffordshire Terriers and others in this family (classified as pit bulls)
- Wolf breeds or crosses
It may not be the fairest set of circumstances, but you can not assume your insurance company will give your dog the benefit of the doubt. Be aware that it’s becoming more common for companies to refuse to write coverage for persons who own certain breeds of dogs. Remember, insurance rates and exclusions are determined by statistical data, and the data shows that the list of breeds above causes more harm and injury than other breeds. It’s essential to keep this in mind when you’re thinking about dog ownership.
If you have questions about how dog ownership will affect your ability to get home insurance, please get in touch with one of our agents. They have a lot of experience and advice they can share.
To speak with an agent, call 800-392-6532.
This post is for informational purposes. The details and conditions of insurance policies vary. We always recommend speaking with an agent to understand the terms of your existing policies and the policies you plan to purchase.
©The Rough Notes Company, Inc.