Homeowners insurance may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you get a puppy, but the insurance implications of dog ownership can be profound. If your dog injures someone, you could be responsible for costly medical bills. Unfortunately, your home insurance may not help you if your dog is of a certain breed. Here’s a look at homeowners insurance dog breed restrictions and how to get the right coverage.
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What are homeowners insurance dog breed restrictions?
Many homeowners insurance companies place restrictions on the personal liability coverage they provide for injuries or damage a dog may cause if it belongs to a so-called dangerous breed.
The most common homeowners insurance dog-breed restrictions include:
- Higher rates for customers with dogs whose breeds are considered aggressive
- Exclusions or reduced coverage for injuries or damage caused by a dog on a company’s restricted-breed list
- Denial of coverage
Several major companies, including Allstate, GEICO, Nationwide and Travelers have dog breed restrictions in some form, but their terms and conditions tend to vary by state.
A few states, including Connecticut, New York, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Vermont, prohibit or limit breed-based home insurance restrictions.
Which dog breeds affect homeowners insurance?
Although breed restrictions vary by company, the 13 most-common breeds found on restricted dog-breed lists for homeowners insurance include:
- Pit bulls
- German shepherds
- Staffordshire terriers
- Alaskan malamutes
- Doberman pinschers
- Great Danes
- Siberian huskies
- Presa Canarios
- Wolf hybrids
How can I find dog-friendly homeowners insurance?
The following homeowners insurance companies are considered dog friendly because they generally do not apply breed-based restrictions on coverage for dog owners.
These and other dog-friendly insurance companies typically keep your rates the same whether your pet is a pug or a pit bull. However, if your dog has a bite history, you may be charged a higher rate or denied coverage.
The best way to find dog-friendly insurance companies in your area is to request and compare quotes from multiple companies. It’s best to mention your dog’s breed upfront.
Just because one company excludes your dog, a different company may be more accepting.
If you are unable to find a home insurer willing to cover your dog, your next-best option is to get a separate canine liability policy in addition to homeowners insurance.
What is canine liability insurance?
Sometimes called dog-bite insurance, canine liability is standalone insurance that covers injuries or damage your dog may cause. It can fill a critical gap in your insurance protection if your homeowners policy excludes or limits its liability coverage for your dog.
Before you purchase a canine-liability policy, it’s best to check the broker’s license status on your state insurance commissioner’s website. Canine-liability insurance agents are typically registered as surplus lines brokers.
How does homeowners insurance normally cover dogs?
Unless your policy excludes or restricts coverage for your dog, the personal liability coverage in your homeowners insurance extends to dog bites and other injuries or damage your dog may cause.
This includes coverage for injuries your dog may cause to guests visiting your home, as well as injuries your dog may cause away from your home, such as at a park or while traveling.
Although the coverage typically also extends to damage your dog may cause to other people’s property, it does not cover damage to your own belongings.
Your homeowners liability also does not cover injuries your dog may cause to you or others in your household.
If your policy has no exclusions for your dog, the insurance company covers claims up to your policy’s liability limit.
However, some companies apply lower limits to liability claims involving certain dog breeds, or all pets in general.
For example, a company that offers home insurance with up to $100,000 in liability coverage may cap its coverage for dog- or pet-related claims to $25,000, which is generally too low.
In 2022, the average cost of a dog-related liability claim was $64,555, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
If your home’s insurer places a sublimit on the liability coverage it provides for your dog, consider shopping around for a different company.
Do I have to get liability insurance for my dog?
Liability insurance is generally not required by law for most dog owners, but some states require liability insurance for dogs that have previously injured people or other dogs.
In Ohio, for example, dog owners are required to carry at least $100,000 in liability insurance for a dog of any breed that has been declared dangerous or vicious, based on prior attacks.
When you consider the potential costs of dog-injury claims, liability protection is usually worth having under any circumstance, because even the friendliest of dogs can injure someone.
The costs of dog-injury claims can quickly escalate. An injured person’s medical bills may be compounded by the costs of any therapy they may need as well as lost wages, if the injuries or treatment force them to miss work.
Unless you have some form of liability protection for your dog, these costs may come out of your pocket, which could put your savings or other assets at risk.
In addition to covering claims, liability insurance typically also covers your legal defense if you are sued by someone injured by your dog.
Is liability coverage for my dog the same as pet insurance?
Liability insurance that covers injuries or damage your dog may cause is different from pet insurance.
Pet insurance generally refers to insurance plans that cover the costs of veterinary treatment for your dog or pet. These policies are often described as healthcare plans for pets.
While pet insurance provides valuable coverage, it does not provide liability protection for injuries or damage that your pet may cause.
Do I have to tell my homeowners insurance company that I have a dog?
Not telling an insurance company that you have a dog can come back to bite you if your dog subsequently injures somebody or damages their property.
Withholding information about your dog during the application process could jeopardize your eligibility for an insurance payment if you ever need to file a claim in the future.
If you already have homeowners insurance when you get a dog, it’s best to notify the insurance company and find out if your policy has any liability exclusions or restrictions on your new pet.
Your insurance company may increase your rate when it finds out about your new dog. However, it’s still better to confirm you have coverage ahead of time than it is to find out your dog is not covered after you file a claim.
Home insurers have a few other ways to find out about your dog.
- When you request a quote, insurance companies check your claims history in an industry database. Prior dog-related insurance claims usually show up in your records.
- After you activate a policy, insurance companies typically order an external inspection of your home. If the inspector notices a pet you did not previously disclose, the insurance company may increase your rate or cancel your policy.
- If someone injured by your dog files a claim against you, your insurance company may check local animal control records. If your dog has a bite history that you have not previously disclosed, your payment may be reduced or denied.
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