If you are like many Americans, there’s a good possibility that you share your home with a dog. In fact, there are nearly 80 million dogs in the United States. They are so ingrained into our culture that many of us consider them to be part of the family. When you look at your dog, you probably just see a furry companion, but in the eyes of an insurance company, your dog could be seen as something entirely different.
Dogs can be a liability. The truth is, if your pet causes harm, you could be subject to criminal charges and/or lawsuits. We know they’re your friend and they sometimes can feel almost like your child, but they are still animals and even the most well-behaved dog can have a bad day. we’re not suggesting that you not have a dog, but rather that you to be properly insured with a policy that covers you should the unexpected happen.
Most Homeowners’ Insurance Covers Dog Bites
For the most part, as long as you have homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance, you are likely covered for liabilities incurred by a dog bite. It may surprise you to know that dog bites are the third most common type of claim reported to insurance companies, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
What does a homeowners insurance policy cover? Of course it will pay for medical bills and property damage associated with a dog bite. There may also be other costs, though, such as lost income, pain and suffering, and even lawyer’s fees for the victim. While the average payout for each claim is about $30,000, damages can be much higher depending on the circumstances.
Not All Homeowners Policies Are Equal
Just as all dogs are different, insurance companies are not alike either – and they’re certainly don’t all treat dogs the same. When you buy a policy or switch to a new one, you should make yourself familiar with any rules they may have about dogs. Some insurance companies will not insure households that contain certain breeds of dog because of a perception that they are more aggressive. While that may or may not be true, breeds of dogs that typically appear on such “dangerous dog lists” include “pit type” breeds, Rottweilers and Dobermans. Each list of “banned breeds” varies from company to company, so if you have a dog of these breeds, or a mixed-breed that includes one of them, you may have to review the policies of a few providers before you find a good fit for you.
Additional Consequences of a Dog Bite
Beyond an insurance company’s dangerous dogs list, if your dog does bite, the local community government could deem your to be aggressive. Some communities track their own dangerous dog lists based on dogs that have actually bitten people. In some places, that could mean your address might become public information. If your dog bites again, you may have to pay double and triple the fines for the additional offense, and your dog would probably be required by law to be put down. Your insurance premiums could also go up to cover your liability for having a dog that is a proven biter.
Reduce the Chances of a Dog Bite
Regardless of what breed of dog you have, you should do what you can to reduce the chances of a bite alltogether. Keep your dog under control as much as possible, such as with a collar and leash out in the open and with fences and kennels to keep them enclosed in your yard. Teach your dog to listen to commands, such as sit, stay, stop and come. Spay or neuter your dog to defuse hormone-related aggression. Socialize them with other pets and people from outside of your household so they are less likely to be scared of strangers. Be aware of and minimize things that could trigger fear or aggression, such as unfamiliar places, loud noises, crowds, and more. If the dog ever shows aggression, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.
Finally, all interactions between children and dogs should be supervised. According to the CDC, that about half of people who require medical attention due to a dog bite are children, with kids between the ages of 5 and 9 accounting for most injuries. Kids have a hard time understanding dog body language and can’t read the signs when a dog doesn’t want to interact. Adults should learn about dog bite prevention and teach children about it, too.
Dogs are great companions most of the time, and 99% of dogs in America never pose a biting risk. Just 1% of dogs in the U.S. ever bite to the point of needing medical intervention. You’re more likely to get into a car accident or be injured in a fall. Even so, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take the advice here to heart and make sure your policy covers what you need. Then enjoy your life with your furry pal.