by Pul Martin, CPCU on Jan 08, 2016
The cost of homeowners insurance can be impacted by a myriad of things, from crime rates to flood risk in the area. Many homeowners don’t expect the cost of a policy to depend on the breed of dog they own, but this does factor into the cost. One breed of dog that has received a lot of negative press lately in the pit bull – a breed of dog commonly used in dog fighting, and also a very common breed to see in shelters and rescues.
The HSUS estimates that there are over 84 million dog owners in the United States. Roughly 5% of these animals are classified as pit bulls. While homeowners insurance may exclude liability coverage for families that own pit bulls, they also may exclude other dogs believed to be aggressive, such as an Akita, Alaskan, Chow, Doberman Pincher, German Shepherd, Malamute, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or Wolfdog.
A dog bite occurs in the United States every 75 seconds. Over 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites, and half of these are children. 386,000 will require treatment in an emergency room. The fifth most popular reason for a child visiting an emergency room is a dog bite. While a dog bite can be serious, the fatality risk is extremely low, at .000002%; fatalities are estimated at 16 per year. The average insurance payment for a dog-related injury is just over $21,000. Dog bites accounted for more than a third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars in 2011, and insurance companies dole out more than $1 billion in dog bite claims each year.
Every insurance company will have different rules and regulations when it comes to insuring a family that owns a dog classified as an aggressive breed. Some cities, counties, and states are now enacting breed-specific laws banning the aforementioned breeds all together, or holding owners to a higher standards of liability. On the other hand, many insurance agencies still offer affordable homeowners insurance, along with other policy options, that will include coverage for your four-legged family member, no matter what the breed.
If you own a dog on the aggressive dog list, here are a few tips to help you obtain insurance to cover any dog-related incidents:
Dust off your homeowners or renters insurance policy and make sure that you are currently covered. Check and see if there are any exclusions in the policy or attached by endorsement that are specific to the kind of dog you own. If there are no breed exclusions, check and make sure that dog bites that occur on and off your property are covered. A policy with a personal liability limit of $100,000 or more is a good idea.
Search online for companies that insure dangerous breeds. There are insurance agencies that specialize in insuring higher risk dogs. You may also want to use online forums specifically for dog owners to see what insurance companies they use. If you have friends or family that own pit bulls or other typical “dangerous dogs,” contact them and ask for insurance recommendations. One of the benefits of using an independent agent is that they can do the shopping around for you, saving you time and hassle.
The American Kennel Club offers a program called “The Canine Good Citizen Program.” This program teaches basic dog obedience skills, along with responsible pet ownership. This program has been recognized by many insurance companies as a way to get a discount on a homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance policy. Getting this certification may also be the only way some insurance companies will insure a family with an aggressive breed of dog for liability coverage.
It’s also important to socialize your pet with other animals and people. Exposing your dog to strangers, along with strange dogs, is an important part of developing a safe family member. You may also consider finding a dog trainer to help you with this process.
This may seem like common sense, but spaying or neutering your pet can decrease your chances of facing a dog bite lawsuit. In 2009, 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs - 94% of which were not neutered.
An umbrella policy is extra insurance meant to cover liability for greater amounts and sometimes other things that a general homeowners policy doesn’t. If your homeowner’s policy does not cover dog bites or dogs of specific breeds, look for an insurance policy that will. A typical umbrella policy that covers dog bites will have a limit of $1,000,000. These policies are usually very affordable, at around $100-$300 a year.
Canine liability insurance, or pit bull insurance, may be available and could cover any damages your dog does to property, animals, or people. Dog liability insurance can cover the following:
Nobody expects a dog bite to happen. Taking the proper precautions and having adequate insurance can make the difference between financial stability and financial ruin after a dog bite.
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