If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, it’s important to note that the breed you select may have an impact on what you will pay for house insurance. Insurance companies regularly consult the latest statistics that record injuries as the result of interactions with dogs. Though cold, hard numbers cannot tell the whole story of what transpired between a person and a dog that ended in a dog bite, these statistics are used to compile data that shows a trend of particular breeds that are more likely to bite than others. When dog bites occur, lawsuits often follow. Today’s lawsuits are increasingly costly to resolve. Because of this, the breed of dog you choose to join your family can potentially wreak havoc with your ability to continue your existing policy with your insurance company.
What Do the Statistics Say?
The year 2019 saw lawsuits as a result of incidents involving a dog and a person culminating in $797 million in total claims. The number of claims did not increase; however, research shows that the cost of each claim was 14.7% higher than in previous years. The statistics indicate that since 2003, claims involving dog bites and injuries have been continually trending upwards when it comes to the amount of money requested. This can be attributed to the rising costs of medical care in addition to the payouts awarded to the plaintiffs in these cases being substantially higher.
If you are or plan to be a dog owner, it is important that you understand how your dog’s breed may affect your home insurance plan. Some of the obstacles you may face include a smaller selection of companies who are willing to insure your home and limited coverage amounts with higher premiums attached.
What Can I Do to Ensure I Get Appropriate Insurance for My Home if I own a dog?
There are several things that you can do to ensure you are able to acquire adequate insurance coverage to protect your home. If you already share your home with a dog, his breed may place some limitations on your options, unfortunately. Here are our top tips to help you find the right insurance company for you:
Select a Breed That Is Not Considered to Be High Risk
Unfortunately, some insurance companies will not insure your house if you own one or more dogs that are considered to be high risk. If you already share your home with one of these breeds, this simply means that you will have fewer options available to you when it comes to businesses willing to insure your home.
Sadly, because dog-related lawsuits are attached to increasingly more expensive claims, many insurance companies are trying to limit any potential damages by keeping a close eye on what breeds are most often involved in dog bites or attacks. Armed with this information, insurers are then able to amend their policies to provide greater protection for themselves. Unfortunately, this means that many homeowners with dogs that fall within these high risk categories either find themselves uninsurable or paying extremely high premiums for very limited coverage.
Some insurance companies make a blanket statement that any homeowner owning a breed on their list of dogs considered to be too high risk is automatically ineligible for insurance with them. The most commonly seen breeds on this list include “Pit Bulls” and “Staffordshire” Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios, and German Shepherds. Some insurance companies also express great reluctance to offer policies to homeowners who share their homes with the following breeds: Great Danes, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and wolf hybrids.
Interestingly enough, the insurance companies that strictly adhere to this “list” name what they consider to be specific breeds. However, the dog type that occupies the #1 position is not a recognized breed according to the American Kennel Club. Though the American Pit Bull Terrier is a unique breed all its own, the term “Pit Bull” is most often applied to dogs that have a certain set of physical characteristics that could apply to many different breeds and mixed breeds as well. Most often, any dog that has a muscular frame and a strong, block-like head is deemed a “Pit Bull;” whether this handle is correct or not. Among the dog breeds that could be considered a “Pit Bull” by an insurance company are the English Bull Terrier, the American Bulldog, the Boxer, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and even such breeds as Dogo Argentinos, Cane Corsi, Mastiffs, and Rhodesian Ridgebacks. A more fair assessment, if insurance companies insist on adherence to this list, would be for the insurance company to request a DNA test be done on dogs that resemble these breeds physically as the litmus test as to the parentage of the dog in question. Should the DNA test prove that the dog contains no ancestry that includes any of the breeds on their list of high risk dogs, the insurance application should be approved. Unfortunately, this is not something that is currently offered by most insurance companies.
If you hope to add a dog to your home that most insurance companies consider to be a high risk breed, it isn’t necessary to change your plans. The best course of action prior to buying your new dog is to call your insurance provider to see if your policy will remain valid once your new canine pal is in your home. They can then discuss with you if this acquisition will invalidate or change your policy. If your insurer will no longer continue your current plan, you can then start to research other options until you are able to find someone willing to provide you with the coverage you require.
Select an Insurance Company Without Breed-based Policy Restrictions
There are some insurance companies that are known to have a no tolerance policy for families that own breeds on their high risk list. However, there are other insurers who are willing to provide coverage but for a higher premium as an acknowledgement of the risk they are taking.
One of the leading insurers that has no restrictions on dog types is State Farm. Instead of making decisions based on a specific breed, State Farm prefers to assess each animal and his owners individually. Their process involves inquiries about the dog’s history, evaluating whether or not there have been any cases of bites or attacks before making a final decision.
The good news is even if your dog has been involved in an incident in the past this may not necessarily preclude you from getting insurance from State Farm. Bites resulting in serious injury may cause the cancellation of an existing policy or may mean you are ineligible for a new insurance policy with this company. However, minor accidents such as overexuberant play that resulted in minor injury is likely to be ignored completely by this insurer.
It is important to note; however, that any lawsuit against you as a result of your dog’s actions may mean your insurance company cancels your claim. If your dog’s history includes behavior that an insurer finds concerning, they are also legally permitted to refuse coverage to you.
Purchase Additional Insurance for Liability
Though most homeowners’ insurance policies do offer some coverage for legal bills in the event your dog bites someone, there is a limit to how much most insurers will cover. That amount is typically between $100,000 and $300,000. This amount is normally more than what would be needed for legal and medical bills involving a dog bite. State Farm reports that the average amount of money required to settle a dog bite claim is $36,000. However, if damage from a dog bite is severe, it may take more than $300,000 to reach a settlement agreement.
When a lawsuit is in excess of the liability limit outlined in your policy, you must pay the remainder of the damages out of pocket. In some cases, you can pay an additional amount of money to extend your liability insurance as high as $1 million. This can be purchased in the form of an added rider that provides you with an extra layer of home insurance as a form of protection. This added insurance will, of course, mean you pay higher monthly premiums.
You also have the option of purchasing protection through an external insurance provider that specializes in liability coverage for dog owners. These insurance policies are available for nominal yearly fees and offer additional protection and peace of mind.
Ensure Your Dog Is Well Trained
One of the best ways you can instill confidence in your insurance company is by ensuring that your dog is mannerly and well trained regardless of his breed. Some insurance companies will consider awards such as the Canine Good Citizen test and Obedience certificates as proof of your commitment as a dog owner as well as a testament to the soundness of your dog’s temperament. In some cases, some insurers will offer discounts upon proof of successful completion of these events.
Honesty is always the best policy. Be honest and direct with your insurance company, so they understand everything they need to know about your dog and his history, even if it includes previous attacks or bites. You have nothing to lose by telling the truth. But if you try to hide your dog’s breed or his previous history and a lawsuit is filed against you in the future, your insurance company may cancel your policy and refuse to insure you going forward.
Sadly, there are some dog breeds that insurance companies feel uncomfortable with, and as a result, they may opt to deny you coverage. But there are plenty of others who are willing to provide you with the coverage you require for your home and property. Do a little shopping around, and you will be sure to find the insurer that is the perfect fit for you and your dog.