Homeowner's Insurance and Dog Breeds
Dog owners often love their pets like members of the family, and dogs can bring a lot of joy to a home. However, one price of having a dog is that it might make shopping for a comprehensive homeowner’s insurance policy a little more complicated.
As of 2020, there are about 48 million American families with a dog in the home. This includes dogs of all sizes and temperaments. However, the size and temperament of your dog can be factors that prevent you from obtaining the full coverage you may want from your insurance company.
This is because many insurance companies refuse to cover certain breeds of dog—breeds that include large dogs and dogs that are known to be aggressive. These dogs are at high risk of causing damage to the home or injuries to family members and others.
What Does an Average Dog Bite Cost in Damages?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are approximately 4.5 million dog-bite injuries reported every year. Of those 4.5 million dog bites, about 20% (900,000) require extensive medical care, which can include:
- Emergency care
- Medical treatment
- Hospital stays
- Rehabilitative therapy
The average medical bill for a dog bite is around $40,000. This does not include the cost of any damage to the home caused by large or aggressive dogs.
Generally, a homeowner’s insurance policy covers damage that a dog may cause to a person or to property. However, because there are so many dog bite injuries and so much property damage caused by dogs every year, insurance companies view having a dog in the home as a risk factor. And if you have a dog of a high-risk breed, insurance companies may shift that cost to you or avoid that risk altogether by:
- Increasing your premium rates
- Excluding coverage for your dog from your policy, or
- Canceling your policy in full
Therefore, if you have a high-risk breed of dog and are shopping for homeowner’s insurance, you must be aware that your coverage may be limited or denied because of having a high-risk dog in the home.
Likewise, if you already have a homeowner’s policy and are shopping for a dog to care for in your home, you must be aware that this could cause your insurance company to charge you higher premiums or change the coverage that you already have. If you want to maintain coverage for your pet, you may be limited in the breed of dog that you take into your home.
Can Insurance Companies Deny Coverage Based on Breed?
Discriminating against specific dog breeds is a controversial issue. Many local municipalities enact ordinances that ban the ownership of specific breeds of dog in their jurisdiction. Many insurance companies adopt a similar approach when it comes to homeowner’s coverage.
Currently, there are only two states—Michigan and Pennsylvania—that have passed laws that prevent insurance companies from discriminating based on breed. Other states are considering passing similar laws. However, until such laws are passed, in every state other than Michigan and Pennsylvania, it is legal for insurance companies to discriminate against certain breeds of dogs.
The dog breeds most likely to be excluded from coverage are:
- Alaskan Malamute
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Pit Bull
- Presa Canario
- Siberian Husky
- Staffordshire Terrier
- Wolf Hybrid
Insurance companies may only exclude some of these breeds or they may exclude breeds not on this list. If you have a question about whether the insurance company excludes your dog’s breed, the best thing to do is to contact one of its insurance agents for information.
Can Insurance Companies Exclude a Dog Based on Behavior History?
A dog’s breed isn’t always the best indicator of whether a dog is actually high-risk. Not all dogs of high-risk breeds pose a threat to people or property, and there are dogs that are not part of a high-risk breed that can cause significant damage when they are aggressive.
For this reason, it is actually more common for insurance companies to evaluate a dog’s individual history of aggressive behavior than to rely just on breed when considering coverage. In every state, it is legal for insurance companies to consider a dog’s past behavior and temperament when determining whether to extend coverage under their homeowner’s policy.
Considering a dog’s aggression in determining coverage is less controversial than denying coverage based on specific breeds. Insurance companies that take this approach will consider whether a dog has ever bitten someone or acted in an aggressive way.
If there is a history of such behavior, the insurance company may deny coverage based on this alone. However, just because your dog has demonstrated aggressive behavior or temperament in the past does not necessarily mean that the insurance company will deny coverage if it determines that the risk of your dog causing future harm is minimal.
Your Dog’s Breed and Behavior May Affect Your Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage
Having a dog in the home is a risk factor for most insurance companies. Insurance companies might consider the breed of your dog and your dog’s behavior history when deciding whether to extend coverage.
If your preferred insurance company declines coverage based on your dog, you do have options. You can:
- Contact the dog bite attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC to fight your discrimination. If you have been denied insurance coverage because of your dog, before you start paying higher premiums, discuss your case with the attorneys at Foster Wallace. We will make sure the insurance company makes a fair and reasonable assessment of your dog and does not restrict your coverage when it is not warranted.
- Shop around. If you are denied coverage, you can shop around for other insurance companies with fewer restrictions.
- Agree to an exemption. Some insurance companies may be willing to provide you with homeowner’s insurance but may exempt from coverage any damages related to your dog.
- Get a pet insurance policy from a pet insurance company. There are companies that specifically provide insurance for your pets without any connection to homeowner’s insurance policies.