You love your pup and know he or she would ever hurt anyone. But if you own one of several breeds targeted by insurance companies, you may have troubled getting dog liability insurance coverage (sometimes called dog bite insurance or dog bite liability insurance). In fact, you may have a hard time finding even renter's or homeowner's insurance. But don't worry, read on...

Dog Liability Insurance - Mugshot of Bad Dog - Safford Insurance - Franklin MA - 02038

Why dog liability insurance matters

 

According to the Insurance Information Institute, In 2017 there were over:

  • 50 dog related injuries a day that led to insurance claims
  • The average claim was just over $37,000
  • Total, dog related injury claims led to over $686,000,000 in claims for the insurance industry

So that's why insurance companies hate dogs right? Sorry not quite . . .

Insurance companies don't actually hate dogs. I won't argue fairness in this article so let's just say that it’s not personal for them, it’s simply business, and they know from experience that certain dog breeds tend to lead to more and more expensive insurance claims. But it may not be for the reasons you think.

 

What causes all those dog related injuries?

 

Dog bites are definitely a big factor in claims costs but so are "knockdowns." Your friendly dog that wants to play or is giving hugs may knock a person down! If that person gets hurt in the fall, that can turn into a claim very quickly. As a result, sometimes the dogs that make the list (see below) aren't there because they frequently bite but rather for concerns about their "knockdown" risk.

 

How do insurance companies manage this risk and what does it mean to you?

 

Most insurance companies have taken one of two approaches to mitigate their dog liability risk:

  1. Not offer homeowner's insurance at all to households with particular breeds of dogs (see below for the list). Every insurance company has their own list and some will except breeds others won't. Or,
  2. Simply excluding animal liability entirely for specific breeds or even all dogs.

This means, an insurance company may not offer you insurance because you have a dog on their ineligible list, or maybe they'll offer you insurance but not for injuries caused by your dog (by excluding animal liability from the policy). If you're a renter, this can cause serious problems with landlords who require liability insurance for their renters. So what do you do then?

 

Get stand-alone animal liability. Here's how it works.

 

Stand-alone animal liability provides coverage for individual pets. That means you're getting liability coverage for a specific individual dog or dogs. Because of how specific this kind of coverage is, it can be extremely flexible and may even provide coverage even for dogs with a bite history!

Going back to the statistics at the beginning of this article, dog related injuries happen. And if the injury is caused by your dog, you may be held liable and required to pay damages. If you don't have enough insurance to pay those damages, that could mean digging into your savings, garnished wages, and more. So you can see how having animal liability insurance can really save the day, but . . .

 

What does it cost?

 

Coverage starts at about $20/month and goes up from there based on coverage and risk. The price varies mostly based on the breed, age, sex, and bite history of the dog. Most landlords seem to be asking for $100,000 in liability coverage, which tends to run about $30/month for dogs without a bite history.

Bottomline, work with an independent insurance agent (such as myself) to tailor fit the right insurance package for you. An agent will help you  protect your income and assets from lawsuits, keep your landlord happy, and do it all as cost effectively as possible.

Before going over the list of dog breeds that are often considered risky, here are  a couple of quick but important notes:

  • Regardless of breed, any dog with a bite history will probably cause you issues with getting homeowner's or renter's insurance
  • Exotic animals tend to have the same issues getting coverage as ineligible dog breeds. Typically there is coverage available on a stand-alone basis for these sorts of animals as well.

 

I just got a dog on the list, but I already have insurance. Now what?

 

Here's where things get tricky and it's important to check your policy carefully! If your policy offers animal liability with no exclusions for dogs, the odds are good that you'll have coverage if you have a dog related claim, regardless of the dog breed. HOWEVER, if your policy excludes coverage for animal, dog, canine liability, or liability for the specific breed you have, then you're out of luck.

A couple of quick additional notes:

  • If you had an ineligible breed of dog at the time you filled out your homeowners or renters insurance application and didn't disclose that, it's likely the insurance company will deny any dog related insurance claims for 'misrepresentation' on the initial application. It's important to be honest!
  • If you didn't have an ineligible breed at the time you filled out the application and got the dog later, and your policy provides coverage, you still may not be out of the woods. If your insurance company learns you have the dog, they may (and probably will) non-renew or cancel your policy for 'a significant change in underwriting risk.'
  • If your insurance agent discovers you have a dog on the ineligible breed list, they are contractually obligated to disclose this to your insurance carrier. Your agent isn't being mean, they're following the rules and can get in a lot of trouble (to the point of even threatening their livelihood) if they don't.

 

My dog is a service dog, that changes everything right?

 

Short answer, no. At this time we're not aware of any companies that are accepting dog breeds on their ineligible list for any reason, including the dog being a service animal. Again, we don't argue fairness but this is the current state of the industry.

 

Now for the list of common "ineligible dog breeds"

 

We know this list doesn’t seem fair, especially when your furry family member is sweet as can be. But, fair or not, the list exists and it’s important to understand how having one of these pets may impact you and your insurance. While not every list has all these breeds on it, and many lists will have breeds not noted here, the most common dogs on “ineligible dog breed” lists include:

  • Pit Bulls (or pit mixes)
  • Akita
  • American Bulldog
  • Chow
  • Doberman
  • German Shepherd
  • Mastiffs
  • Presa Canario
  • Rottweiler
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Wolf or Wolf mix.
  • Any mix of "ineligible breeds"
  • Any other dog breed on the carrier list

On a related note, I also get a lot of questions from dog and cat owners about pet health insurance. You can learn more about that HERE.

Want to go straight to getting a dog/animal liability quote?

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Lastly, an important disclaimer: This information is general in nature and intended to be educational. Nothing in this should be considered an offer or provision of coverage. Every insurance company, situation, person, and animal is unique and pricing and coverage will vary. Depending on the situation, in some cases coverage may simply not be available. At the time of this posting, Safford Insurance, LLC services the states of MA, RI, and TN.

About Greg Safford

Bringing over 15 years of insurance experience, Greg is client focused and passionate about helping individuals and businesses understand their insurance options so they are prepared for the unexpected. With so many options, Greg is dedicated to helping clients make educated decisions about protecting their assets. When not working with customers, Greg can be found hiking, fishing, or spending time with family.