You’ve probably heard that owning certain dog breeds can make it nearly impossible to find insurance. How true is this, really?
Well, it depends on your insurance company.
Potential insurers vary widely in their stances on insuring dogs that would be considered “breeds of concern.” While some will refuse to insure homeowners with certain dog breeds, others will decide on a case-by-case basis for each dog. Most carriers won’t check in regularly with existing policy holders to see if they’ve acquired a new dog during coverage, unless an incident occurs with that dog. (At that point, the company might nonrenew the policy, charge a higher premium going forward, or exclude the dog from future coverage.)
Why do insurance companies care so much about my dog?
Consider that dog bites and other dog-related injuries are the cause of more than one-third of all homeowners liability claims each year. In 2017, there were 18,522 bite claims made, with an average payout of $37,051. That means that dog bites cost insurance companies nearly $700 million annually.
It’s not a matter of “breed-hating” – insurance companies must take statistics into account in order to mitigate costs. Much like the increased price of insuring a young male driver over insuring a young female driver, it’s not personal, it’s just statistical: the motor vehicle death rate for male drivers ages 16 to 19 is twice that of their female counterparts (www.cdc.gov).
The same goes for dogs. A majority of serious injuries reported through insurance claims are caused by a rather short list of dog breeds – not because all dogs of a certain breed are bad, but because when these breeds do cause harm, they tend to cause more harm than other breeds because of their size and/or strength. This includes not only bites, but also other injuries, like a child or elderly person being knocked down.
Standard breeds of concern to insurance companies typically include, but are not limited to Akita, Chow Chow, Pit Bull-type breeds, Doberman Pinscher, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and any kind of wolf hybrid.
If you own one of these breeds, though, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.
What can I do?
Tell the truth. If you lie to your insurance company about your dog’s breed and then have a claim, you almost certainly won’t be covered, and you will likely be nonrenewed the following policy period. Do you have $37,000 lying around to pay out of pocket?
Look for discounts. Your insurance company might offer a lower premium for completing an obedience class or passing a Canine Good Citizen test. This shows that your dog is well-socialized and that you are choosing to be a responsible owner.
Consider standalone coverage. Canine liability insurance may be purchased separately from a homeowners policy. This gives you the ability to exclude a breed of concern from your homeowners insurance and avoid a higher rate or declined coverage.
Decrease your risk. Minimize the chances of a bite claim by socializing your dog at an early age, ensuring that people can’t interact with it while unsupervised (like through a backyard fence), and always keeping it on a leash in public. Pay attention to signs that your dog may be feeling threatened or uncomfortable.
The best part about having an agency like Safe Harbor Insurance on your side is that we can shop around to find an insurance company that will work with you and ALL of your family members – even the furry ones. Enjoy these photos submitted by our clients!
For further reading on Breed-Specific Legislation and dog aggression, check out these articles provided by local dog trainer Suzanne Bryner: