More than a third of all home insurance claims involve some act committed not by the family, but by the family dog. A vast majority of these incidents involve biting, with the victims normally being a family member or family friend. It is not unusual for a dog-related claim to exceed $300,000. Is it surprising then that more and more insurance companies are denying coverage or specifically excluding dog bite incidents from policies for owners of particular, “dangerous” breeds?
While it is important to understand is that any breed of dog will bite under the right circumstances, the list of dogs considered dangerous by insurers includes (but is not limited to):
– Pit Bull
– Doberman Pinscher
– Staffordshire Terrier
– Presa Canario
– German Shepherd
– Alaskan Malamute
– Siberian Huskies
– Wolf Hybrid
and any mix of the above blood lines.
Some companies, including AAA, won’t even write a homeowner’s policy if one of these breeds is present in the home.
Consequently, a new insurance product, dog liability coverage, has started to become more popular. The benefits will cover the cost of injury to a third party caused by either a dog bite or attack. (Some policies will also cover property damage caused by the animal.) Be aware that there is normally a cap on the amount of benefits paid and the policy will not cover legal expenses should a dog bite incident wind up in litigation. Additionally, the insurer maintains broad rights to cancel the policy after a single incident — and sometimes even after a complaint of the potential for aggressive behavior.
There are many arguments for and against the “banned” breeds. While it is true that any dog treated lovingly and raised well will be a faithful and placid companion, it is also true that any dog can have a bad “moment,” when he is either afraid or believes he is acting to protect his human. Given the size of settlements in dog bite actions, however, if you are an owner of one of these breeds, investigating dog liability coverage with an insurance professional is in your best interests. A $300,000 legal settlement could cost you your home and your life savings.