It is safe to say that the companionship of a dog is as much a part of our culture as baseball and apple pie. The good news is that by and large, insurance companies are comfortable insuring households with a canine member. The bad news is that there are exceptions in which man’s best friend can create some insurance issues.
When an insurance company is deciding whether your home is a good risk for them to insure, they’re looking to avoid factors that increase the likelihood of a future loss. A dog that they consider more risky than average is one of those factors.
Reports indicate that there are nearly one million dog bites per year requiring medical attention in America, and the average dog bite claim costs an insurance company more than $30,000. This explains why insurance companies want to evaluate the level of risk your dog poses.
It’s hard to know what dog might bite. Any dog can do it given the right circumstance. But insurance carriers do look at statistics that indicate that certain breeds tend to bite more often than others. For example, a recent study showed that over the last twelve years, pit bulls accounted for two thirds of all dog bite fatalities in the US.
So most carriers have a list of breeds they believe pose an above average statistical risk. All carriers are likely to list pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids as risky breeds. Beyond that, carriers lists vary, but a given list might include breeds such as Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chow, Doberman, German Shepherd, Husky, Mastiff and Presa Canario. And insurance companies tend to be equally concerned whether the dog is full-bred or a mix that contains one of these breeds.
When you apply for Homeowners insurance, your insurance carrier will ask whether you have any pets or other animals. If you have a dog, they will ask what breed Rover is and whether he has ever bitten in the past. If your dog’s breed is on their concern list or if it has a bite history, many carriers are likely to decline to insure your home at all.
So the unfortunate reality is that owning certain dogs could make it more difficult for you to get Homeowners insurance. While some dog breeds might be unacceptable with one carrier but acceptable with others, there are some dogs that may be uninsurable by practically any carrier.
In some cases, your best option might be to find a carrier willing to exclude your dog. But be aware, this often comes as part of a broader exclusion for any other dogs you own or even any other animals that you own. Also, only a few companies are even willing to do this. Once you do find such a carrier, you are still in the uncomfortable position of being on the hook financially if your dog bites, or even if he or she runs out in the road and causes a car accident.
Of course, your other option would be to buy property-only insurance without any liability coverage at all. This leaves you even less protected and is definitely not something that I would recommend. Also, this is not likely to save you any money, as preferred-priced Homeowners policies build in liability coverage automatically; so non-standard policies where liability coverage is optional tend to be more expensive to begin with.
If you have a pet considered uninsurable, that doesn’t make them any less apart of your family. This could leave you quite frustrated as to what to do. My recommendation would be to talk to an independent agent. Unlike exclusive agents who represent just one carrier, independent agents like me have a number of companies available and can often find a solution for hard-to-insure situations.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.