Homeowners' Insurance: Will Dogs Affect My Premium?

Homeowners' insurance and dogs may seem unrelated, yet in many states, an insurance company has a legal right to refuse insurance or to hike rates because of dog ownership. The breed of dog can be a factor in your eligibility for homeowners' insurance or in the cost of your policy. Some companies will provide coverage only if the homeowner's dog has never bitten anyone, and an increasing number of insurance carriers are forcing people to give up their dogs if they want to renew their policies.

Insurance Carriers and the American Kennel Club

Many insurance companies contend that specifying the breeds that usually bite lowers the premiums for homeowners. Dog owners retort that each dog is an individual so insurance companies shouldn’t profile breeds. The American Kennel Club argues that these dogs guard the property and alert homeowners to thieves prowling, thereby helping insurance companies save money. The AKC is in favor of  homeowner's insurance including dogs.

The major insurance companies hear “dogs” and limit coverage. Large breeds are targeted; they can wreak havoc on someone. Dog bite prevalence, notoriety, and research are also considered by insurance companies when deciding to limit “homeowner’s insurance dogs” coverage.

Recent Statistics Concerning Dog Bites
  • 2007 $365.2 million costs for dog bite claims
  • 4.7 million dog bites of people per year
  • More than 50 percent of bites on dog owner’s premises
  • 33 states hold dog owners liable over injuries or death
  • Pennsylvania and Michigan prohibit refusing insurance due to
Owning Certain Breeds

The statistics weigh against the “homeowners insurance dogs” concept. While insurance companies campaign against laws that prevent limiting insurance to owners of particular breeds of dogs, the American Kennel Club campaigns to overturn the negative laws concerning dog ownership. The case that tipped the tide towards laws that limit insurance for owners of certain breeds was the Diane Whipple case in San Francisco, California in 2001. The concept of “homeowners insurance dogs” was construed in the favor of the insurance companies.

Most homeowners and renters policies have coverage for dog bite liability; the provisions are usually from $100,000 to $300,000. Once a dog has bitten a person then the insurance company might take one of these actions due to the “homeowners insurance dogs” concept.
  • Tell the policy owner a new home for the dog
  • Charge a higher premium
  • Not renew homeowners policy
  • Not include the dog in coverage
These types of laws make a dog owner liable for a dog bite afflicted by their dog.
  • Statute for dog bite
  • One-bite rule
  • Negligence laws
A dog bite statute makes the owner liable if the dog wasn’t provoked and damage included property damage. With the one-bite rule, the owner is liable if he knew his dog was prone to biting, the burden of proof is on the victim. Negligence laws make the dog owner liable if he was irresponsible in controlling his dog. Understandable, these laws favor the insurance companies concept of  “homeowners insurance dogs.”

The breeds targeted by insurance companies under the concept of “homeowners insurance dogs” are: wolf  hybrid, Akita, Alaskan malamute, Staffordshire bull terrier, chow, doberman pincher, German shepherd, pit bull, Siberian husky, rottweiler and presa canario.

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