Insurance Considerations for Dog Owners

We are a nation of pet-lovers. The ASPCA reports that approximately 78 million dogs are owned in the United States, and over 40 percent of all households have a dog. It may surprise you, but if you are one of them, it’s something you should talk to your insurance company about.

In Massachusetts, dog owners are liable if their dog bites or causes personal injury and the injured person was not trespassing, committing another infraction, or provoking the dog. Beyond bites, you are also liable if your dog causes any injury––for example, jumping on someone, causing them to fall and sustain injuries. The law also applies to property damage caused by your dog, including injury to other animals.

The average cost of an insurance claim associated with a dog bite is over $64,555, and the cost of claims continues to rise. While typically covered under most homeowners insurance policies, there are exceptions, and you are responsible for the balance of any claim over your policy limits.

Things to Consider

Failure to disclose that you own a dog on your application for home ownership, or misrepresenting the dog’s breed or bite history, may invalidate your policy. When you talk about your insurance coverage, here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Do you own a breed that’s considered high-risk? Some breeds may be considered uninsurable, or may require higher coverage. This list can change frequently, and can vary by state or even insurer. Breeds on the list often include:
    • Akita
    • Alaskan Malamute
    • Chow Chow
    • Doberman
    • German Shepherd
    • Pit Bull
    • Rottweiler
    • Siberian Husky
    • Wolf Hybrid
  • Have you taken any extra precautions, such as fencing, muzzling, a kennel or obedience classes? This is often taken into consideration by insurers.
  • Has your dog ever bitten or attacked anything before, either humans or other animals? If so, this may affect your future coverage. Not disclosing previous attacks by your dog could leave you without any protection.

Types of Coverage

If you have a dog or other pet that could injure someone or cause property damage, you have several insurance options:

Homeowners insurance and condominium insurance typically cover up to a specific amount, unless you have a dog that your insurance company won’t cover, either because of its breed or past behavior. Renters insurance typically only covers the value of your possessions, and would likely not cover any injuries or damage caused by your pet.

You may be able to take out a separate policy to protect you from liability and medical damages in the event your dog injures someone. Some companies offer policies specifically for this.

A personal umbrella policy can cover some losses not covered by an underlying policy like homeowners insurance, such as if you have a dog or other pets that could cause injury or damage.

The Bottom Line

Even the best-behaved dog can act aggressively when it feels threatened or frightened, or destroy property if it’s anxious. Take precautions to reduce the risk, including obedience or socialization classes, and never leave children unsupervised with a dog.

Talk to your insurance provider about your coverage needs if you have a dog or another pet that could cause personal injury or property damage. At The Dowd Agencies, we pride ourselves on working with you to ensure that you have the coverage you need at a price you can afford. If you’ve added a new furry member to your family, contact us to make sure you’re protected.