We all love our four-legged friends. After all, they are “man’s best friend”, right? It is often said that dogs are the most loving and loyal animals. However, docile dogs may bite when you have invaded their territory, touched a favorite toy, or when they are defending their puppies, owner or bowl of food.
What happens if your dog bites someone? As the owner of the dog, you may be held liable for injuries or damages that result from the bite. You will most likely have coverage under your homeowners policy to cover your liability, but coverage may depend on the breed of your dog and any previous biting incidents, so you should definitely check with your agent to make sure.
Last year, dog bites accounted for more than one third of all home insurance liability claim payments, costing a hefty total of $483 million. The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I) reported that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased 5.5% in 2013. The increase in claims may be credited to non-bite injuries, which are included in the analysis. For instance, scratching, tripping, knocking down or frightening a person are claims that are typically less costly than dog bites, however, they still may require reconstructive surgery. Last year, the average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $27,862. If you do the math, that’s roughly 17,359 dog bite claims reported in 2013.
When we write a homeowners policy in the office, we ask if there are dogs in the household and if so, what breed. This is because many insurance companies hesitate to write policies when a “high risk” breed is involved. We realize that you might think that your “Sally the Pit Bull” may be the sweetest thing and that she would never bite anything besides her beloved rawhide bone. Unfortunately, some dog breeds are known to be aggressive by nature, and are considered to be “high risk” regardless of how friendly you think your pooch is.
The riskiest dog breeds include:
- Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Terriers
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepards
- Great Danes
- Presa Canarios
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Siberian Huskies
We aren’t saying that you can’t own a Pit Bull but we are advising you that this breed (and the others listed above) may cause a problem when purchasing home insurance. Insurance companies are very picky about what type of dog they’ll insure and which ones they won’t. We will need to find a carrier that will cover your dog, and this could cost you more. Furthermore, if you decide to not disclose that you have a particular dog, and during a freak accident, your four-legged friend decides to latch on to your friend’s leg, you will be faced with a big problem. Since you didn’t disclose that you had the “high risk” dog, your insurance company may deny your claim. This could cost you thousands of dollars, or more, out of your own pocket! Even if you have a Yorkshire Terrier, Golden Retriever, or other non-high-risk dog, once a dog bite takes place, the insurance company could raise the premium, exclude dog related injuries from coverage, or choose not to renew the insurance.
If you are the owner of a dog, it’s important to try to prevent your dog from biting anyone in the first place! Positive reinforcement training methods will help tremendously! However, you should also be a prudent dog owner and purchase homeowners (or tenant’s) insurance to ensure that you have liability protection in the event your dog does bite someone. Give us a call at 401-723-8510 and we will be happy to review the coverage with you to help protect you and your pooch!