Homeowners Insurance and Dogs: Are You Covered?
Homeowners insurance is an important policy that protects your property from losses and damages caused by storms, fire, theft, and other perils.
A policy isn’t required by law, though. Although your mortgage lender will likely require one for as long as you have the loan.
Home insurance includes four basic levels of coverage.
These include dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, loss of use coverage, and personal liability.
Since personal liability covers injuries that occur on your property, it’s a must-have for dog owners. Especially since roughly 5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs each year.
If you have a dog, here’s what you need to know about homeowners insurance and dogs.
Will Home Insurance Cover a Dog Bite on the Property?
If you’re a dog owner, there’s always the possibility of a dog bite.
And you might ask, will my home insurance cover dog bites that happen on my property?
The short answer is, yes, most home insurance policies will cover a dog bite.
There are exclusions (more on this later).
Dog bites that occur on your property can be minor or major.
Major injuries might require a trip to the emergency room, and an injured party might need stitches and other care. And understandably, the injured person will expect you to pay their medical bills.
Also, an injured person might sue and win a court-ordered award.
Either scenario is costly.
But with homeowners insurance, you don’t have to dip into your own pocket to pay their medical bills or a court-ordered award.
Personal liability protection
Your policy’s personal liability protection covers you in these situations.
It will pay an injured party’s medical bills, as well as any court-ordered award.
As a bonus:
Personal liability protects you if you cause damage to another person’s property.
Understand, though, personal liability protection has limits.
Most home insurance policies include a minimum $100,000 of protection.
For many people, this is enough.
But there’s also the option to increase your coverage limit.
You can choose personal liability up to $500,000, which is worth consideration if you have a lot of assets.
Plus, upping your coverage provides added peace of mind—in case an injured person seeks more than $100,000.
Coverage off your property
Another thing to keep in mind is that personal liability doesn’t only cover dog bites that occur on your property.
It also covers dog bites that occur off your property, and if your dog attacks another pet.
These attacks can occur elsewhere, such as a dog park or someone else’s home.
But while your home insurance personal liability coverage will cover dog bites that occur on your property and away from your property, there are exclusions.
Your insurance company will not cover an injured party’s medical bills or pay a court-ordered award if you encourage your dog to bite.
Also, your home insurance will not cover dog bites that take place in a business setting.
For example, you might run a dog grooming business, a doggy daycare, an animal boarding business, or a dog training business from your home. When a dog bite occurs in this setting, you’ll need to file a claim with your business insurance provider instead.
Does Dog Breed Matter When Getting Home Insurance?
Keep in mind, too, that dog breed matters when getting home insurance.
Insurance companies consider certain breeds high risk. This includes dogs with a history of aggression.
And unfortunately, if you own a high-risk breed, you might run into problems when getting insurance.
Restricted dog breeds vary from provider to provider, but often include:
- Alaskan malamute
- American pitbull terrier
- Chow Chow
- Doberman pinscher
- Great Dane
- German Shepherd
- Siberian husky
- Wolf hybrid
Keep in mind that these dogs aren’t always restricted due to a history of biting humans.
Some insurance companies will also restrict a breed when there’s a history of the breed attacking smaller pets.
1. Denied coverage
If your dog’s breed is on the restricted list, some insurance companies will deny coverage altogether.
Likewise, if you bring a restricted breed into your home after getting a policy, your insurance company might not renew your coverage.
The good news:
Some insurance companies—like State Farm and Nationwide—allow all dog breeds. But they will take a look at your dog’s history. In which case, they might deny coverage if there’s a history of aggression.
2. Higher premiums
But even if an insurance company doesn’t deny coverage, you can expect to pay more for certain types of dog breeds.
Since there’s a higher risk for aggression, there’s a greater risk of your dog biting another person. This creates a huge liability, so your provider will increase your premiums accordingly.
3. Personal liability exclusion
If you have a high-risk breed, the insurance company might issue a policy and exclude liability protection.
If your dog bites another person or destroys personal property, you’ll have to pay the other person’s repair costs and medical expenses out-of-pocket.
What to Do If You’re Denied Home Insurance?
If you’re denied homeowners insurance because of your dog’s breed, here’s what you can do to get coverage.
1. Shop providers
Just because one insurance company denies coverage doesn’t mean others will too. Sometimes, you have to call around and shop companies to find the right provider.
Along with State Farm and Nationwide, Amica and USAA also have a history of providing home insurance coverage regardless of the dog breed.
Plus, shopping around can help you find the lowest premium.
2. Buy umbrella insurance
If you welcome a restricted breed into your home, your standard home insurance policy might not cover this breed.
However, your insurer might give you the option to purchase an umbrella policy. This provides additional liability protection.
If your dog bites another person or another dog, your umbrella policy will cover the injured party‘s medical bills or vet bills.
3. Confirm your dog’s breed
Most people identify their dog’s breed by looking at their appearance. But looks can be deceiving, especially if you have a mixed breed dog.
You can confirm your dog’s breed by ordering an at-home DNA test kit for dogs.
A test might reveal that your dog isn’t of an aggressive breed, in which case, you might have no problem finding home insurance.
How to Prevent Dog Bites and Personal Liability Claims?
Although personal liability can cover dog bites on your property, filing a claim can also increase your home insurance premium.
Your insurance provider might cancel your coverage.
The best way to avoid these issues is to prevent dog bites from occurring.
Socialize your dog
Dogs are less likely to bite when they’re comfortable around other humans and animals.
As a pup, allow your dog to safely interact with other humans, and when appropriate, allow them to play with other dogs.
Keep your dog on a leash
You can also prevent dog bites by keeping your pet on a leash when around other people and animals.
This prevents your dog from chasing other pets, especially smaller pets. And they’re less likely to bite when they’re startled or feel threatened.
Know your dog’s triggers
A dog might attack when stressed or when they feel threatened.
Learn how to identify your pet’s stress cues.
And if you sense some hostility or agitation, remove them from around people and other animals.
Keep a close eye on your dog
Whether you’re at a dog park or around your home, keep a close eye on your pet.
Don’t leave them unattended, especially if there’s a history of aggression.
If you allow your dog outside alone, make sure you have a fence around your property.
Get your dog neutered
Some unneutered male dogs develop behavioral problems and act aggressively due to higher testosterone levels.
They may view other dogs as threats, and they’re more likely to bite humans when upset.
Homeowners insurance offers a lot of protection.
It protects the actual structure of your home, your personal belongings, and it provides funds for additional living expenses (if you have to temporarily move out of your home).
Liability protection is another important part of your home insurance policy.
But unfortunately, some providers exclude certain breeds from this protection.
Speak with your insurance company to see whether your policy covers your dog’s breed. And if not, consider other ways to get coverage.
You’ll need to select an insurance company that accepts all breeds, or you can buy an umbrella policy.