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If there is one thing Americans can’t get enough of, it’s dogs. According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), there are as many as 85 million dogs in America, and the number of households with a pooch just keeps growing year after year. While dogs are great companions, they do add risk to a household. The reality is that dog bites do happen, and you may be liable if your dog is responsible. For this reason, it’s important to know what your homeowners insurance policy covers. While you might be able to claim a pet bite on your insurance policy, some companies have coverage exceptions.
Will my home insurance cover me if I have a dog?
Several million dog bites are reported annually, many of them involving children. On top of the legal ramifications, medical expenses can quickly add up. In extreme cases, an insurance claim for a dog bite could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the Triple-I, dog bite claims averaged approximately $64,555 in 2022 with 17,597 claims reported.
Liability coverage on home insurance policies is designed to help protect you financially if you are found at fault for injuries caused to others on your property or for damage to the property of others. This type of coverage may or may not protect you if your dog bites someone.
Coverage generally applies if the person or people were bitten by your dog on your property or elsewhere. However, not all dog breeds are covered and if you own a dog that is considered a restricted breed by your insurer, your claim may be denied. It’s important to ensure that you have read and understand your home insurance policy to determine if your dog is covered before something happens. If you are unsure whether your policy covers your dog, you may want to speak with your insurance company for clarification.
Top dog breeds that insurers won’t cover
Dogs that are typically included on an aggressive breed or restricted breed list with insurance carriers may be prone to cause more injuries if a bite occurs. They could also cause more extensive injuries simply because they are a larger breed. Due to the increased risk, some insurance carriers try to manage this risk by implementing a restricted breed list. Other home insurers may only ask about your pet’s bite history, and are not as particular about the breed.
A homeowners insurance dog list usually varies by carrier. However, the following dog breeds are most commonly restricted:
- Alaskan malamute
- Chow Chow
- Doberman pinscher
- German shepherd
- Pit bull
- Presa Canario, or canary dog
- Wolf Hybrid
If you own a dog that’s not on the restricted dog breeds list, you may still have trouble getting insurance coverage if your dog has bitten someone in the past.
What to do if your insurer won’t cover your dog
If your current insurer would exclude your dog from homeowners insurance coverage or would not insure you at all because of your pet, there may be alternatives to help you find homeowners coverage:
- If your dog is a service dog, you may receive an exception from your insurer to cover your pet.
- You may be able to train your dog to get Canine Good Citizen certification from the American Kennel Club (AKC) to request an exception.
- Find the best insurer that does not restrict your dog’s breed.
- Ask your insurer to exclude your dog from the policy instead of canceling your insurance and find pet insurance that specializes in canine liability policies.
To discuss your options, it is best to talk with your homeowners insurance company or your property insurance agent to determine the best course of action.
Insurance companies that don’t discriminate by breed
Several states prohibit (or are in the process of passing legislation to prohibit) insurers from discriminating against dog breeds. If you live in a state that does not prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against certain breeds and are interested in dog-friendly homeowners insurance coverage, consider the following companies:
These carriers are known to write homeowners insurance policies that typically do not exclude certain dog breeds from coverage, or have shorter lists of excluded dog breeds. That means you may be able to have your home insured without concern if you have a dog belonging to a breed that other insurers would deny coverage. However, if your dog has a history of biting, these companies still may deny coverage due to the pet’s known history.
How does your dog impact your insurance rate?
Dog bites can come with high medical bills and court settlement costs. The Triple-I reports that the average cost an insurance company had to pay out for dog bite claims in 2021 was $49,025. If your insurance company covers your dog and it bites someone, claims costs may cause premium increases.
Frequently asked questions
Failing to tell your insurer about your dog or omitting the dog’s breed could land you in hot water. If you file a claim for an injury from a dog that’s not covered on your insurance policy, the company may deny the claim, leaving you financially responsible for all medical bills and court costs. Considering that the average claim paid in 2021 for a dog bite is almost $50,000, it’s best to be upfront about your dog or find an insurer willing to accept your restricted pet.
If you have a mixed breed that may include a dog from the restricted dog list, your insurer may still not cover your pet. In fact, your dog may not be insurable if it’s bitten someone in the past, even if it’s a poodle or a labrador. It’s best to be honest about your pet’s history and breed ahead of time instead of finding out you are not covered after you file a dog bite claim.
An insurance company has no obligation to provide coverage to any person, and it may reserve the right to cancel your homeowners insurance policy if you have a dog that is considered restricted. If you lie to the insurer about having a dog or if you conceal a dog’s bite history and it is later discovered, you may have your policy canceled. If this happens, you can seek to get new coverage from another carrier, but make sure the company will cover your dog.
Your insurance policy may cover dog bites, but it will depend on your specific policy. Typically, a policy will only cover a dog bite up to your liability limit and may only apply if your dog has no prior history of biting. This coverage may not apply to someone who lives in your household. Your best course of action is to consult with your insurance provider. This way, you can determine what your policy covers and ensure your dog is covered and not excluded from the policy. You may need to look for another insurance company that will cover your dog, potentially raising your premium.