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Dogs put the bite on home insurance

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

As a lifelong dog lover, I'm a firm believer in the dictum that there are no bad dogs, just bad dog owners.

© cynoclub/Shutterstock.com.Sadly, some dog owners have become so lax with regard to their pets that many home insurance companies have stepped in to protect their interests and ours by levying a behavior tax or even denying coverage to owners of breeds that, fairly or not, are considered a hazard to others.

As an annual reminder of this uncomfortable truth, the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm co-sponsor National Dog Bite Prevention Week, currently underway through May 24. And little wonder, given that one-third of all home liability claims last year were due to dog bite injuries.

Dog bite claims on the rise

Nationwide, dog bite claims increased 5.5 percent over 2012, at a cost to insurers of $483 million.

The average payout from those claims declined by 6.4 percent over the same period, from $29,752 to $27,862. Despite this smattering of good news, the cost of dog-related injuries has been rising over the long term, says Loretta Worters, an III vice president.

"The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 45 percent in the last decade (2003-2013), due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing," she says.

California led the nation with 1,919 dog-related claims last year, with an average claim of $33,709. While New York placed second with 965 canine claims, it took the prize for highest average claim at $43,122.

Keep insurance rates down

To avoid dog-related injuries that could cause your home insurance rate to soar, III and State Farm recommends these steps:

  • Before you choose a dog, ask a professional trainer, breeder or veterinarian to suggest breeds that would be the best fit for your household and neighborhood.
  • Get to know a prospective pet before bringing it home, especially if you have an infant or toddler.
  • Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
  • Be sure to socialize your dog to act appropriately with other animals and humans.
  • Caution children not to interrupt a dog when it is eating or sleeping.
  • Teach your dog non-aggressive games like "fetch" and avoid aggressive games like tug-of-war.
  • Seek immediate advice from a professional if your dog shows signs of aggression.

"All dogs have the potential to bite, but for most, biting is a last resort,” Victoria Stilwell, star of "It's Me or the Dog" on Animal Planet, says in a news release. "Confident dogs have less need to use aggressive behavior."

Here's a rundown of the 10 most blacklisted dogs.

Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus.

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2 Comments
John C
May 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Pit Bulls incidents and maulings got so bad in PG County, Maryland that the County Commissioners banned the breading of them in the County about 20 years ..Had plenty of public hearings .. The average $ amounts given to settle a claims the article I just don't believe .. Remember, "Insurance Carriers " have a tendency to exaggerate and lie ...

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