Your family dog can be a factor in whether you can get homeowners insurance. Find out if your dog is an insurance liability.
Home insurers will take your dog's breed into account when considering coverage of your house. Some dog breeds have a history of aggression. Bites can lead to costly liability claims, so some insurers blacklist those breeds.
Even if your dog is perfectly behaved, your insurer may deny or even cancel a home policy due to the breed. Some insurers have more restrictions regarding dog breeds than others. Breed restrictions are controversial but a reality.
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The CDC estimates that dogs bite an average of 4.5 million people every year. One-fifth of these attacks are serious enough to need medical attention. An III study found:
Loretta Worters, III’s VP of communications, says these spikes were spurred by “increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.”
These stats show you why home insurers would see dogs as a dangerous risk. And their risk models show that claims involve certain breeds at a higher rate than other breeds. That’s why some home insurers may charge higher premiums to cover a high-risk breed. However, denial of home insurance coverage is more likely to happen.
Insurers have a list of dog breeds that have a history of aggression or bites. If you have a dog breed known for being vicious, home insurers can consider them high-risk, regardless of how nice yours is. The list below shows the breeds insurers tend to see as a restrictive rate factor:
Akitas were bred for generations as guardian and bear-hunting dogs. If not properly trained, their hunting instincts can take over.
Chows are known for having a calm disposition. That is, until they’re provoked. Also, their peripheral vision range is very small. This makes them very easy to startle and irritate.
Dobermans can have issues with dominance and territorialism, which can sometimes lead to high-risk behavior.
German Shepherds need a lot of TLC. If they are bored or irritated, they can have problems with other animals and people.
Great Danes need to be socialized with people and other dogs starting when they’re puppies. Otherwise, their size can make them hard to control.
Pit bulls have a notorious reputation, unfortunately. You may have the sweetest pit on the block, but they still have a high-risk history with many home insurers.
While a properly-trained Rottweiler can be a good family dog, their protective nature can lead to aggression.
Huskies have a strong instinct to chase anything that runs, which can lead to problems with children.
Wolf hybrids are illegal in 11 states and DC. Also, and there's no USDA-approved rabies vaccines for wolf hybrids. These factors are instant coverage denial reasons for many insurers.
Michigan and Pennsylvania are the only states where home coverage denial based on breed is illegal. In all other states, your insurer can decide if a dog breed is a reason for coverage denial. Some home insurance providers have firmer policies on breeds of dog as a basis for coverage. Following are a few insurers that have a strong history of using breed as a policy restriction:
Farmers Insurance doesn't provide liability coverage for dog bite-related claims involving pit bulls, rottweilers, or wolf mixes. They require their policy holders sign an exclusion waiver of liability for dog bites.
Allstate has a “no policy” list that is extensive. It will not provide homeowners coverage to households that include any of the above dog breeds.
Esurance explicitly denies coverage for any household that includes a pit bull.
Nationwide will not underwrite new coverage if the household in question includes many of the above breeds.
Liberty Mutual does not focus solely on the dog’s breed. “The presence alone of a dog in the home will not result in policy denial or exclusion of liability coverage,” says Glenn Greenberg, Liberty Mutual’s director of media relations. However, “some dog breeds will require further review. If they do not meet our acceptability guidelines, we may choose not to write the policy.”
Some insurers have much broader criteria for high-risk dogs than others. Following are some home insurers who have a more open view on dogs:
Most of these insurers will look at the individual history of the dog when considering coverage. State Farm follows a “It’s the bite, not the breed” policy regarding dog bite liability, including pit bulls. They work on the basis that any dog can bite under certain conditions. State Farm may have restrictions if the dog in question has bitten anyone in the past.
Insurers are very competitive. Some will provide coverage for certain dog breeds where others will not. Don’t be afraid to look and see what other home insurers offer.
Ask your home insurer if there are ways to avoid policy denial due to your dog’s breed. Endorsements from a vet, a diploma from an obedience school, or a visit with the dog from the insurer's agent can help your case.
Another option is to see if you can get the dog excluded from your home insurance coverage. This means you could have liability coverage for other damages, but incidents involving your dog would come out of pocket.
Also, you could see if your insurer offers an umbrella liability policy. Umbrella liability insurance is a separate policy type that allows you to get liability coverage above the limit that your homeowners insurance provides. Some umbrella policies provide liability insurance for dog-related incidents.
You can also look into a canine liability insurance. This type of coverage provides liability protection in the event of bodily injury or property damage to third parties. Canine liability coverage excludes injury to you or your family, as well as any of your own property.
If all else fails finding a home insurance policy that accepts your dog, contact your state’s insurance commissioner office. Someone there may be able to help you find an insurer that will cover you and your pet.
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