Dogs take bite out of homeowners insurance

Home insurers bark: It's me or the dog
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It's me or the dog. That's the ultimatum that some insurance companies give some canine owners searching for homeowners insurance or rental coverage.

If you own a dog, insurers may charge you a higher rate, exclude your dog from liability coverage or turn you down cold based on your dog's breed, history of claims, the insurer's dog bite claims or all of the above, says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

"Some companies will strictly not write certain breeds of dogs. With others, breed has no bearing; it's really what their claims have shown," she says.

It's easy to understand why. According to the Insurance Information Institute in New York, dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, and more than half occur on the dog owner's property. Dog bite claims totaled $387 million in 2008, up nearly 9 percent from 2007.

Insurance companies contend they're merely managing their risk. But canine and animal rights groups denounce the practice as breed discrimination or profiling. Consumers and dog owners are caught in the middle.

But don't give up lovable Max just yet. There's a doggone good chance this story will have a happy ending.




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