Dog Bites: Are you protected under your homeowners insurance policy?

Dog Bite Protection

Almost 90 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States, according to a 2017-2018 survey by the American Pet Products Association. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries are highest for those between the age of 5 to 9 years old.

Dog bites are by far the most common liability claim on homeowner’s insurance policies. Over half of dog-bite injuries occur in our very homes.

Imagine This!

A 10-minute attack lead to the imprisonment of a couple.  This made it the biggest dog-bite liability insurance judgment on record. When Diane Whipple, a 33- year-old woman was mauled in a hallway outside her home by two 140-pound Presa Canario.

Whipple died because of the attack; both dog’s owners were convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

One owner was convicted of 2nd-degree murder, the other who wasn’t present during the attack was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for leaving his wife with their two dogs, whom “he should’ve known she could not control them.”

In addition, the couple was sued for $1.5 million in damages by Whipple’s partner, who won. As frightening as this situation is, it could happen to you!

Do you know if your homeowner’s policy will protect you if your pet bites someone?

It’s time to blow the dust of your policy in search of a personal liability coverage. A majority of the time your homeowner’s insurance policy will not cover you, leaving you vulnerable to such situations.

Although, the standard homeowner’s and renter’s policy does provide you with liability limits usually up to $300,000; there are exclusions that can apply depending on the carrier and breed of your furry friend.

Carriers are now compiling an “Unacceptable Breed List” that will exclude liability coverage, possibly even make you ineligible for coverage, should you own a breed listed.

Below is a sample from one of our homeowner’s insurance carriers:

● Akita   ● American Pit Bull    ●Terrier-Chow    ● Doberman Pinscher

● German  ● Shepard Great Dane    ●Husky   ● Pit Bull

● Presa Canario ● Rottweiler  ● Staffordshire Terrier   ● Wolf Hybrid

What are your options should you do have one of the dogs on the unacceptable breed list?

Invest in an Animal Liability policy. We work with carriers that can offer coverage with this kind of policy. Some homeowner’s insurance carriers require proof that you have the dog insured under an Animal Liability policy before extending coverage.

What can you as a dog owner besides purchase insurance to protect yourself?

  • Spay or neuter – This procedure can help reduce your dog’s aggressive behaviors; The Humane Society has different programs to help you get a discounted rate at a highly rated hospital.
  • Socialize early Introduce your puppy to different situations and people as early as possible. Early socialization makes for a more relaxed adult dog. But watch for signs of stress during socialization, as it’s a leading cause of aggression.
  • Hire a professional – If your dog displays aggressive behavior, a trainer may be able to curb the problem and help the animal overcome stress. Someone call Cesar Millan, quick!
  • Know your dog Learn their stressors this way they can be avoided. For example, if your dog growls at children, keep them away.

What if you are a landlord? Are you responsible if your tenant’s pet bites someone?

Generally, the legal rule is to hold the dog owner responsible for dog-bite injuries. However, you could be held responsible for dog bite injuries that occur on the rental property if found to be negligent.

If you are a landlord, you should monitor your properties and act to remove or evict aggressive dogs. Your exposure to liability could be increased, if you were aware of the presence of an unacceptable breed on your rental property.

The same is true if proven you were aware that a dog on your property was vicious, took no or inadequate action, and you had the legal authority to have the dog confined or removed.

Call us for a policy review, or to insure your four-legged family members, we also provide pet insurance!