How to Lose Your Homeowners Insurance: Dog Bite Claims

Could the family pooch be standing between you and a homeowners insurance policy? Dog lovers that we are, we’re sorry to say it’s true. A 2008 study revealed that dog bite claims are the source of more than 30% of all homeowner insurance liability claims and cost insurers nearly four million dollars! Here are some things you can do to avoid becoming uninsurable (or saddled with Great Dane-sized premiums, not to mention nasty law suits).

Insurance companies, which don’t like paying out all that money for dog bite claims, have taken a cue from the Centers for Disease Control’s list of dangerous breeds and fatal dog bites. If your best buddy’s breed is on it, insurers may well consider you a high risk. Yes, this is an unfortunate bias that paints all members of a breed with the same broad brush. In reality the top 3 breeds on “the most likely to bite list” are:  3) Jack Russell Terriers, 2) Chihuahuas, 1) Dachshunds. Still, if you’re shopping for cheap homeowners’ insurance, owning a Rottweiler isn’t going to help your case. Recognize that you may one day have to decide between your beloved pet and having homeowners’ insurance and consider choosing one of the less controversial breeds.

Don’t consider yourself exempt from liability concerns just because you own a teacup poodle. Any dog, regardless of size or breed, can bite if sufficiently provoked. That provocation is whatever the dog believes it to be, ranging from the postman invading its turf to unwanted attention from a four-year-old. Your best tack is to be an ultra responsible pet owner. Take every reasonable precaution to protect people from your pet and your pet from people. There are some steps you can take that may even carry some weight with your insurance company.

Obedience training is a good first step. Make sure your dog knows the basic commands: sit, stay, come, and leave it. Take it to the next level and get your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen. This is training and testing regimen sponsored by the American Kennel Club. It means you’ve taken a pledge to be a responsible owner and your dog has completed the required course, passed the tests and received actual certification. It can’t hurt to let your homeowners insurance company know that your dog qualifies.

Don’t allow your dog to play unsupervised anywhere strangers are present or likely to come on to your property. Put him in the backyard, a crate, a fenced kennel or in another room.

The highest incident of dog-bite injuries are among children ages five to nine, according to the CDC. Interestingly, the injury rates are significantly higher for boys than for girls — maybe because boys play rougher or are more likely to tease. Keep this in mind and confine your dog when other people’s children are in your home.


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