By: Mary Thompson, Capstone Brokerage President, April 23, 2018

Most American families have a family pet. They are considered a part of the family and in some situations can be more like children to their owners. What happens when your beloved family pet BITES? Interestingly one third of homeowner’s liability claims arise from dog bites and other dog related injuries.

After analysis of homeowner insurance data, it has been found that dog bite claims are also on the rise. A 2.2% increase from last year in fact. In addition, the average claim cost is also increasing. The National average claim for a dog bite last year was $37,051 and in 2026, $33,230 an increase of over 11%! The average cost per claim has risen 90% since 2003.

A pet owners homeowner’s or renter’s insurance will typically cover dog bite liability and the associated legal expenses up to the policy liability limits. If damage occurs exceeding the limit of the policy the owner will be responsible for all damages over the policy limit amount.

Does Dog Breed Play a Role in Claims?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, some dog breeds will keep an owner from getting coverage in the first place.

“Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowner’s insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.”

Some insurance companies are starting to take steps to limit their exposure event o certain breeds by requiring a homeowner who owns a pit bull to sign a waiver of liability. This in turn means the homeowner will NOT have any coverage for dog bites or attacks. Perhaps this is a way for the insurance companies to decrease the claims, but the risk of course is now bypassed straight to the homeowner.

There is an additional policy that can be obtained called a dog owners liability policy. This can help further protect homeowners as well. We recommend prevention at all costs. In order to make sure your fury beloved friend is not a risk we suggest non-violent homes, of course, but also training for your dog. Taking a training class can make a huge difference in your risk and can prove to be very important! It should be fun for both you and your pooch and is a way to provide access to an expert who can field your questions, teach your dog key skills, and deliver socialization, distraction, and stimulation. That’s a tall order! Classes may be offered at vet clinics, doggie day camp facilities, dog clubs, dog training facilities, and pet stores.

Owners should be aware of potential limitations and exclusions when reviewing or shopping for a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Dog bites is one more thing to consider when renewing or shopping your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. For more information about this topic and your policy speak to an educated and knowledgeable insurance professional.