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Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?

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If you are a homeowner that owns a dog, it’s important to find out what your homeowners insurance covers should you have a dog-related injury from your dog biting someone or another pet. What if your dog bites someone? Homeowners insurance may help cover the costs if your pet injures someone, but only in certain circumstances. It’s important to know what your homeowners policy covers, or doesn’t cover, so that you are not left paying out of pocket for medical expenses and court fees for a dog bite claim.

When does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?

Homeowners insurance is meant to provide financial protection in the case of unexpected events. If your dog were to bite someone who does not live in the home with you, like a friend or neighbor, the liability coverage on your homeowners insurance policy may extend coverage to help cover the medical costs if you are found legally liable. Liability coverage may also cover legal fees and court judgments from the lawsuit.

Your dog bite insurance coverage may also apply if your dog bites another dog that does not live in your household. For example, if your dog runs off your property and bites another dog, you would likely have coverage, in this case, should you be found legally liable for the incident.

Breed restrictions can vary depending on your state, too. For example, Pennsylvania does not allow insurers to have dog breed restrictions. So, regardless of the type of breed you have in certain states, your homeowners insurance company cannot deny your coverage.

It is important to note that your liability insurance policy coverage has a coverage limit, so expenses above that limit would not be covered. Liability coverage could be up to $100,000, $300,000, $500,000 or more. You may also consider getting an umbrella policy to have additional liability coverage above your homeowners coverage limit, should you need extra coverage.

When does homeowners insurance not cover dog bites?

While homeowners insurance can cover dog bites, some exclusions exist. An exclusion means that your insurance company specifically states that your policy does not cover certain scenarios. Below are examples of common exclusions your homeowners insurer may have for dog bites. It’s important to check with your insurance agent or insurance carrier, though, to see how your coverage applies or would not apply.

Excluded coverage for dog breeds

Your property insurer may have a restricted dog breed list. Dog breeds that are commonly excluded from homeowners insurance companies are:

  • Akita
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Great Dane
  • Mastiff
  • Pit Bull
  • Presa Canario
  • Staffordshire Terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky

Mixes of any restricted breed mentioned above are also generally excluded with most carriers. Should your dog fall on a restricted dog breed list, even if you got the dog after getting a homeowners insurance policy, a bite will likely not be covered. Check with your insurer, though, as carriers have different breed restrictions (or none at all).

Excluded coverage by insurance company

Some insurers may have dog bite restrictions written within your homeowners policy terms. For example, you may recall agreeing to exclude pet coverage from your liability coverage options when setting up your policy. If this is the case, you would not have liability coverage should your pet injure someone.

Excluded coverage for household members

Your homeowners insurance also will not cover injuries to household members. Say your dog bites a family member, such as your spouse, your homeowners liability coverage, or medical payments coverage would not help cover any medical bills associated with this incident. The same restrictions apply if your dog bites another dog in your household, your policy will not cover this incident.

How to file a dog bite claim

The first step in filing a dog bite claim is to find out what your policy covers. You can file a claim online by visiting your homeowners insurance provider’s website and following its steps. You can also contact your insurer, as many companies have 24/7 claims services. If your policy was set up with a local agent, you might have to contact them during regular business hours. The policy paperwork you received when setting up your homeowners insurance policy, such as your declaration’s page, usually has a phone number listed on it to contact customer service or the claims department. You can also look up your insurer’s information online.

Written by
Cate Deventer
Insurance Writer & Editor
Cate Deventer is a writer, editor and insurance professional with over a decade of experience in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance agent.
Edited by
Managing Editor