How will having a dog affect your homeowners insurance rates? What kind of dogs will cause your home insurance rates to increase or even possibly cause you to be ineligible for coverage? Is it possible to find cheap homeowners insurance even with a dog?Across the U.S. owners of certain breeds of dogs are being told by homeowners insurance carriers that they need to give up their dogs or risk having their homeowners insurance policy canceled or not renewed at the end of their contract period.
In most states it is also legal for homeowners insurance companies to charge higher premiums based on the breed of the dog. While there is no standard list of ‘high risk’ dogs among different insurance carriers, some of the breeds that are most often targeted are Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls, Huskies, Malamutes, Chow Chows, Great Danes, and Saint Bernards.
With one third of all homeowners liability insurance claims being filed as a result of dog bites, insurance carriers are becoming increasingly reluctant to insure owners who have breeds that statistics have shown to cause the most personal injury. In 2006 insurers spent 35.14 million to cover the costs of dog bites alone.
STATISTICS CONCERNING DOG BITES
– Of all childhood hospital emergency room visits, dog bites rank second as the most common cause of injuries.
– 60% of all dog bites involve children. This includes the family dog as well as dogs not known to the child.
– Annually, the number of Americans that suffer dog bites exceeds 4.7 million.
– Rottweilers and Pit Bulls account for over 50% of all dog attacks. (A male dog is 80% more likely to bite than a female dog.)
– Surveys show that about 40% of households own a dog or dogs, and that the majority of dog bites occur in or near the house where the dog lives.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO FIND AMONG VARIOUS HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COMPANIES IF I’M AN OWNER OF A ‘DANGEROUS BREED’?
Some home insurers will have a list of breeds and cross breeds that are banned from coverage and you will not be able to get a homeowners policy from them as long as you own that breed of dog. This is their policy regardless of how long you’ve owned the dog or how sweet its temperament.
Some insurance carriers will consider dogs on a case by case basis and not automatically ban insuring a dog based on its breed. Their homeowners insurance questionnaire may include questions such as, “Has your dog bitten anyone?” or “Has your dog been trained to bite or attack?” Also, the issue of whether a dog was provoked into biting or attacking may be taken into consideration. If in the past a dog has had an incident of attacking someone unprovoked, most insurers will not offer coverage and in many cases not renew a policy.
Some insurers will offer liability insurance coverage but require higher premiums if you are the owner of a ‘high risk’ dog. With liability claims sky rocketing in the area of injuries incurred by dog bites and by “dangerous breeds”, insurers have increased their premiums to offset the cost in much the same way as homeowners are being required to pay higher premiums in areas where wind has caused so much damage.
Some home insurers will require those seeking a homeowners policy with them to sign a liability waiver for dog bites. All of which means that if the homeowner desires liability coverage for his dog he will have to purchase a separate policy, and of course, that means more money paid out in premiums.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN LEGISLATION CONCERNING “DANGEROUS DOGS”? Laws on dangerous dogs and homeowners insurance differ from state to state. In the state of Illinois Bill, H184 established a definition for “dangerous dogs’ and ‘vicious’ dogs. It also outlines certain requirements for owning these dogs and lays out the penalties for violating these standards. In addition, all dogs are now required to be vaccinated against rabies. Inside the bill H184, certain jurisdiction was also given to county governments that they did not formerly have. This bill now allows counties to require micro chipping dogs, and they are also given the power to require animal and litter registration fees.
In Palos Heights, a city in Cook County, Illinois a micro chipping requirement was put into place. The City Council approved an ordinance that not only required owners with dogs classified as “dangerous” to micro chip their dogs, but in addition they are required to take out a $100,000 liability insurance policy for their pet. Under their definition, a “dangerous dog is one that “Exhibits extremely aggressive menacing behavior toward humans or domestic pets and must be confined to prevent injury or death to human or pets.” As a result of this definition, ‘dangerous dogs “must be kept in their home or in a secure enclosure. Outside trips are banned, unless a veterinary visit needs to be made. A muzzle is also a requirement for the dog to visit the vet.
On the insurance end, legislation is pending that would prohibit insurers form canceling or denying coverage based solely on the breed of a dog. Several others states, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington also have similar legislation in the works. Michigan and Pennsylvania already have a law in place that makes it illegal for homeowner insurance companies to deny coverage based on breed.
HOW DO I FIND HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE TO COVER MY DOG?
Call around. This will take some diligence on your part, but there are still some insurance carriers that offer coverage on a case to case basis and do not discriminate against a breed. These would seem to hold to the American Kennel Association position of “Punish the deed, not the breed.” Shopping around is key to finding cheap homeowners insurance.
If your dog has completed some kind of obedience training program, make that documentation available to the insurers. If your dog has not participated in an obedience program, as if that would help you obtain liability insurance or even give you a better rate.
Finally, if your dog has less than a stellar dog history, you might have to purchase a separate liability policy to cover your dog.
Whatever you decide to do – be sure that you shop around and compare homeowners insurance quotes from multiple companies. Shopping around is key to not only find the coverage for your pet and home that you need but also to save money in the process.