Dog food and chew toys are among the first things most people think about when it comes to caring for a pooch. But if your furry friend is a certain breed, you might have insurance concerns to ponder as well. Here’s what you should know about dog breed restrictions in homeowners and renters insurance.
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How do homeowners insurance dog breed restrictions work?
Many insurance companies charge higher rates or deny coverage to customers with dogs that fall on their “dangerous dog breed” lists. This practice is based on the companies’ rationale that certain breeds are more likely than others to cause injuries.
The specific lists of restricted breeds vary by company, but they usually include the following:
- Pit bull mixes
- Presa Canarios
- Wolf hybrids
- German shepherds
As an alternative to higher rates or denying coverage, some insurance companies require dog owners with restricted breeds to accept a dog bite exclusion. This relieves the insurance company of having to pay out on a dog bite claim.
Recent years have seen a backlash against insurance company dog breed restrictions. A coalition of animal welfare organizations including the American Kennel Club, the Humane Society of the United States and Best Friends have called upon insurance companies to discontinue the practice. The groups cite concerns over a range of issues, including animal welfare and equitable treatment of people who choose certain breeds at pets.
New York and Nevada recently enacted laws that prohibit an insurance company from using a dog’s breed alone as the basis for denying an application or charging a higher rate.
Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Vermont are among states that also limit insurance company breed restrictions.
Where can I find dog-friendly homeowners insurance?
State Farm and USAA are among the insurance companies that don’t take a dog’s breed into account when determining eligibility or rates for home or renters insurance. Instead, they evaluate the behavior of your individual dog.
It’s already standard practice for insurance companies to check your claims history when you apply for coverage. And most inspect your home when your policy takes effect. If you have a prior dog bite claim on your insurance record or your home inspection reveals a safety issue of any type, your application could be denied or your rate hiked.
If you have a dog-bite claim after your policy takes effect, your coverage might not be renewed when the term expires. This is not much different from what could happen with certain other claims, or too many claims.
Farmers does not have dog breed restrictions in most states. However, the company does require dog-bite exclusions for California customers with pit bulls, Rottweilers or wolf hybrids, according to BADRAP, a California non-profit that helps sheltered pit bulls find homes.
BADRAP lists Amica, Auto-Owners and Chubb as additional dog-friendly home and renters insurance companies.
Toggle, an insurance brand under Farmers, offers a unique renters insurance package for customers with any type of pet, including dogs of any breed. Toggle’s Pet Parent package includes up to $100,000 in pet liability coverage and up to $500 to board your pet if a covered loss leaves your home uninhabitable, plus other benefits.
Insurance companies that don’t restrict dogs by breed:
- Farmers (in most states)
- State Farm
- Toggle (renters insurance)
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How do I get insurance with a restricted dog breed?
If your dog’s breed is on an insurance company’s restricted list, it may be difficult, but not impossible, to keep or obtain your home or renters insurance. Some companies waive the breed restriction if the dog completes an approved training program. Here are a few other options:
Shop around. If one company won’t insure your dog’s breed, look for a different company that will. The list of restricted breeds varies slightly by company. Even if your dog’s breed is restricted by one company, it might be accepted by another. Or, you could go with a company that has no breed restrictions at all.
Consider dog bite liability insurance. Some insurance companies offer liability coverage specifically for injuries caused by your dog. Dog bite insurance could fill your coverage gap if your insurance company requires a dog bite exclusion. These are different from pet insurance policies, which provide healthcare coverage for a dog or cat.
As with any insurance product, check your state insurance commissioner’s website to make sure the company’s license is in good standing. You can check on the company’s financial and customer service ratings online with companies and organizations such as A.M. Best, Trustpilot and the Better Business Bureau.
Be honest. You never want to conceal or lie about your dog’s breed to your insurance company just to get approved or a lower rate. If you ever need to file a claim, a misrepresentation in your application could reduce your settlement or slow down the process.
How does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?
If your dog or any other pet injures someone who does not live in your home, the liability coverage in your home or renters insurance policy usually covers the injured person’s medical bills.
No one expects their dog to hurt anybody, but the average cost of a dog-bite claim in 2020 was more than $50,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute. These include claims in which an interaction with a dog was compounded by additional injuries, such as a broken bone or concussion from a fall.
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