Will Your Dog Affect Your Insurance Policy?
Dog owners often find themselves facing a particular dilemma when trying to secure homeowner’s insurance. While insurance is a must for anyone wanting to own their own house, many home owners face higher premiums, inferior policies, or even blacklisting by insurance agencies; simply because they own a dog. Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t just protect against natural disasters, theft and other mishaps. It also shields policy holders against lawsuits arising from injuries or damages, even those related to pets. However, thanks to the increasing cost of litigation; especially those surrounding dog bites and other dog-related incidents, many insurance companies refuse to write coverage for homeowners who also own certain breeds of dog.
If you’re a homeowner and a dog lover, this guide is for you. Here, you’ll find facts on the relationship between dog ownership and home insurance, which breeds create the most problems for homeowners, and how to find the cheapest and most affordable homeowner’s insurance possible. Here are some basic facts about dog ownership and homeowner’s insurance:
- Almost 40% of American family households have a dog.
- That’s over 43 million households, with an average of 1 1/2dogs per household. The Humane Society estimates the numbers at over 84 million.
- About 4.6 million people are bitten by dogs each year. 2 in 5 of these require serious medical attention.
- The average cost of an insurance claim related to a dog bite is over $35,000. Dog bite insurance claims can cost insurers over $480 million a year.
- While the number of dog bite claims has fallen, the cost of such claims continues to rise.
- While a few states outlaw “breed profiling,” many insurance companies allow the denial or cancellation of coverage if a homeowner owns a certain breed of dog.
Some organizations have spoken out in favor of dogs and home ownership, claiming that dogs can act as a natural deterrent against theft and property damage. Insurance companies can question homeowners on whether they own a certain breed of dog, and can charge more for a policy or require additional paperwork depending on the answer. In most states, insurance companies can outright “blacklist” policy holders for owning certain dog breeds. These breeds, especially if they have a history, are listed as “uninsurable,” potentially leaving the owner liable for medical bills or lawsuits if the dog should bite someone.
Many times, insurance companies will not take a dog or dog owner’s history into account; they simply go by the average number of bites that are reported for certain breeds, as well as breeds with recent high-profile stories in the news. This often means that a breed of dog that is “safe” one year may be “dangerous” the next. Some insurance companies can require muzzling, behavioral training, or other restraints in order to write a policy, incurring extra financial burdens on dog owners. The following types of dog are most often considered “bad breeds” by many insurance companies:
- Alaskan Malamute
- Chow Chow
- German Shepherd
- Pit Bull
- Siberian Husky
- Wolf Hybrid
So what do you do if you own a dog and want to find cheap homeowner’s insurance? Fortunately, you may have more options than you think. Insurance companies are trying to accomplish the same goal you are which is to protect themselves from liability. Many insurance companies will take extra precautions into account, such as certified obedience training, dog socialization classes, fences, kennels, and so on.
Not all insurance agents are created equal. If the first agent you talk to for a particular carrier won’t work with you, try another. Some states forbid insurers from denying a policy to a homeowner because they own a certain breed of dog, but most do not. Your insurance commissioner can provide you with a list of insurance companies in your state, and can, on request, review a refused policy to see if it falls within your state’s legal guidelines. While you may not be able to own a dog and get the cheaper home insurance you’d like, you may be able to take out a separate policy on your dog, thus protecting you from liability and medical damages.