You fall in love with sweet Maggie Mae, a puppy with a mixture of Rottweiler and a few other breeds. She’s calm, loving and gets along great with your kids. But when you go to buy a home, the insurance agent says your dog can’t be covered on the insurance policy because it’s on the list of risky dog breeds.
Almost 90 million dogs are owned as pets in the U.S. according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association. And 4.5 million people get bitten each year by dogs, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Insurance companies typically cover dog incident expenses, up to liability limits which are typically $100,000 to $300,000, says the Insurance Information Institute (iii). But some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs that are categorized as dangerous. Others decide case-by-case, depending on an individual dog’s history of being vicious regardless of its breed, the iii says.
“About one-third of all home insurance claims are dog-related,” Dori Einhorn, owner of Einhorn Insurance in San Diego, says. “This has caused a lot of insurance companies to re-evaluate which dog breeds they are willing to cover.”
She knows of only one carrier which raises the premium for homeowner’s insurance because of the breed of the dog.
She adds that the other carriers will either:
- Allow you to have any dog you want, but not cover the dog. Some of these carriers will make you sign a dog exclusion.
- Not insure you at all if you have a certain breed.
- Not cover your home and your dog.
Of the 3 options above, there’s no additional charge for dogs.
What is the riskiest dog breed list that insurance companies still use?
“Lists vary from carrier to carrier,” Einhorn explains. “Some carriers only have one to two breeds listed while others may have 20.”
Generally, the list includes Akita, Alaskan Malamute, American Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bullmastiff, Chow Chow, Doberman, Pit Bull, Pressa Canario, Rottweiler, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Wolf hybrid or any mix of these breeds.
Why are these dogs on this list in the first place?
“All dogs cause claims,” she says. “Ironically, most of my claims are with small dogs – Labradors, Australian Shepherds and Retrievers. But, it’s the ‘dangerous breeds’ that can cause more damage. Or the more likely case is that the dangerous breeds cause attorneys to get involved – which results in higher claim payouts.”
People think insurance companies have deep pockets, and when you’re bit by a “dangerous breed,” the victim sees it as a payday opportunity and hires a lawyer, Einhorn states.
Do homeowners insurance companies cover rescue dogs?
“There’s a problem if any dog has a prior history of aggression/biting, regardless of the breed,” she says. “Some carriers will insure you if the incident is more than 3-5 years old. It just depends on the carrier.”
What is dog liability insurance?
Einhorn sells dog liability insurance and encourages all dog owners, no matter the breed of the dog, to carry some liability insurance to cover the unintentional actions of their dogs.
If you don’t have some type of insurance that covers your dog if it hurts someone or another animal, you end up paying everything yourself.
Dog or canine liability insurance covers:
- Reasonable medical bills including surgeries due to bodily injury to a person or other animal.
- Your dog or dogs while at your home and while away from home (depending on the type of policy you have).
- Damage your dog causes to other people’s property, but not including damage your dog does to the property you are renting.
- Attorney fees if your case goes to court.
- Loss of wages to the injured party.
Dog bites and injury claims cost $700 million in 2017, according to the iii and State Farm. How can this number be reduced?
“That’s the Billion Dollar question most insurance companies face,” Einhorn says. “The #1 thing to do is to just not offer coverage to certain breeds or all breeds. This avoids claims altogether. Unfortunately, not all dog claims are from bites.”
She adds that even an excited or happy dog can injure someone accidentally. If she was an insurance carrier, she would offer coverage to all breeds but limit the amounts of coverage and then surcharge if that owner wants higher limits on the dog.
“I would also ask more underwriting questions beyond what carriers currently ask about dogs,” she adds.