Of course, your furry friend is the most lovable and cuddly dog in the world. But unfortunately, insurance companies don’t always see it that way. Even if your dog is totally well-behaved and wouldn’t hurt a fly, your insurance company could limit your insurance coverage or even make you completely ineligible for coverage based purely on your dog’s breed, size, or history.
If you have a four-legged buddy running around the house, here’s everything you need to know about dog breeds, insurance denial, and what to do about it.
Factors that Could Make You Ineligible for Coverage
Insurance companies aren’t being mean when they offer limited coverage for owners of certain dogs. There’s a pretty good reason why they’re so hesitant. Every year, around 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. alone, and the average dog-bite claim pays out $44,760. In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s a lot of money.
To protect themselves, insurance companies often restrict or deny coverage to people who own dogs that might have a higher risk of injuring someone.
Although it’s the last thing we think about when we’re adopting a puppy, most of the time, insurance companies will deny coverage outright to anyone with a “high-risk” dog. Even if you can get coverage, the insurance company will probably exclude animal liability coverage. That means if your dog injures someone, you’d be responsible for the cost out-of-pocket. And, remember, that can be a LOT of money.
From an insurance company’s point of view, risk of injury is based on the dog’s breed or its bite history.
Since it’s impossible to get to know every dog individually (although that would be a dream job for some!), insurance companies rely on statistics to determine which dogs are risks and which aren’t.
As it turns out, certain breeds are statistically more responsible for injuries than others. These breeds are considered “high-risk” because of their potentially aggressive predisposition. Whether or not your individual dog is a great pup, if you own any of these “high-risk” dog breeds, you might have a hard time finding insurance coverage:
- Pit Bulls
- Doberman Pinschers
- Staffordshire Terriers
- American Bulldogs
- Presa Canarios
- Wolves and Wolf Hybrids
- Any mix thereof
Any dog that’s a mix of at least one of these breeds could also make you ineligible for coverage. For example, if you have a lab/chow mix, you still could have trouble getting coverage, even though your dog is part lab—which isn’t typically considered an aggressive breed.
All this gets much more difficult if your dog actually has bitten someone in the past. Owning a dog with a bite history will make it very difficult to find insurance coverage. Since your dog has already proven that it’s capable of being aggressive (not just statistically inclined to be), most insurance companies won’t offer coverage at all.
If your dog has a bite history, it doesn’t matter what breed it is. You could have any breed from golden retriever to chihuahua. If it has a history, you likely won’t find insurance coverage.
What to Do If You’re Ineligible for Coverage Because of Your Dog
Just because your furry friend is an “aggressive” dog breed doesn’t mean you can’t cover yourself. There are plenty of insurance providers that offer dog-specific insurance. Called canine liability policies, these policies pay if your dog does happen to injure someone.
Canine liability policies aren’t breed or history exclusive. No matter what kind of dog you have, you can get them covered. The cost of coverage might increase a bit if you do own a “high-risk” breed or a dog with a bite history, but the rate won’t change as much as you think. This is a great way for any dog owner to protect themselves from dog-related liabilities.
Property Owners May Be Liable for Tenant Dogs
Now we get to the gnarly bit. If you’re a property owner with tenants, you could be held liable for your tenants’ dogs too. Ultimately, you’re responsible for what happens on your property, whether you live there or not. That means if a tenant moves in with an aggressive dog and the dog bites someone, you might end up being held responsible.
It’s not a bad idea to take a note from the insurance company playbook and restrict “aggressive” dog breeds or dogs with a bite history to protect yourself from liabilities. Make these restrictions known and follow up regularly to make sure the rules are being followed. With an average cost of over $44,000 per claim, you don’t want to have to deal with dog-bite issues. Alternatively, you may want to make sure you build the cost of canine liability insurance into what you charge for rent, along with dog-related damage deposits.
Don’t just Assume You’re Covered: Get the Coverage You Need
There are plenty of intricacies when it comes to insurance coverage. Just because you own an “aggressive” dog breed doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do— but the last thing you want to do is not pay attention to your coverage or ignore the issue. If you have questions about how your dog can affect your ability to find coverage or want to get a canine liability policy, make sure you reach out to an experienced insurance agent. A good agent has seen it all before, and knows what to look for in insurance contracts. They’ll help you navigate the world of dog-ownership and insurance so you’re not left holding a big medical bill sometime in the future.
At Erwin Insurance Agency, we have decades of experience helping people find the perfect coverage to suit their lifestyles—pets included! Contact us and put our insurance expertise to work for you. We can answer all your insurance questions and get you set up with the policy that’s right for you.
Sheri McCredie, PLCS, is an account manager for Erwin Insurance Agency. With around 20 years experience in the industry, Sheri has developed a loyal base of customers and extensive base of knowledge on a broad range of insurance concepts and products. She is particularly well known for her ability to find solutions for “hard to place” risks. In fact, she is so well known for these skills that other insurance agencies contact her to help when they run out of options themselves.