While most homeowners insurance policies offer liability coverage to dog owners that covers dog bites and other dog-related claims, most insurance companies also exclude coverage for specific dog breeds or dogs that have been deemed dangerous, potentially dangerous, or a public nuisance.
According to the Insurance Information Institute’s Dog Bite Liability report, over one-third of homeowners insurance liability claims are related to dog bites, which cost more than $400 million per year with an average claim amount of $22,000.
Fortunately, dog owners have several solutions to obtain adequate coverage for their pet.
What is Considered a Dangerous Dog Breed?
Insurance companies often rely on the average number of bites by dog breed to determine if a dog is “insurable.” While the definition varies by insurance company, the most common dog breeds that appear on blacklisted or dangerous breed lists include:
- Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Terriers
- Rottweilers (* Pit Bulls and Rottweilers together account for 60% of fatal dog attacks)
- Doberman Pinschers
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Great Danes
- German Shepherds
- Siberian Huskies
- Wolf hybrids
Many insurance companies also exclude liability coverage for dogs that have been deemed a public nuisance, dangerous, vicious, or potentially dangerous. Sometimes additional requirements are necessary to write a policy, such as behavioral training or muzzling.
Some states, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, outlaw breed profiling, but most states allow insurance companies to blacklist owners of so-called dangerous dog breeds. Without coverage, dog owners are held liable for any lawsuits or bills if the dog bites someone, depending on the state dog bite laws.
Typical Homeowners Insurance Exclusions for Dog Bites
Homeowners insurance policies usually offer coverage for dog bites, including legal liability the owner incurs due to negligence. A standard policy may offer hundreds of thousands in liability coverage.
There are dog-related exclusions to a standard homeowners policy. Along with excluding coverage for dangerous dog breeds, many insurance companies have their own one-bite rule which means the insurance company will only pay for the first occurrence then cancel the policy or add a dog exclusion for any subsequent dog bites.
Most policies also require the insurance company be notified of major changes in circumstances. If the homeowner’s dog bites someone or is declared a dangerous dog under local law and the insurance company is not notified, the policy is likely to cover any subsequent dog-related claims.
Umbrella Liability Insurance Policy
One common solution for obtaining liability coverage for a dangerous dog breed is purchasing a personal umbrella liability policy. This type of insurance offers coverage for any excess liability over your underlying liability coverage (such as through your homeowners insurance policy). With this option, it’s important to be sure the policy does not exclude dog-inflicted injuries.
Canine Liability Insurance
A canine liability policy is written specifically for dog owners to insure dogs and owners who cannot obtain coverage otherwise for any dog-related injuries and damages. Sometimes known as dog owner liability insurance, a select number of insurance companies and brokers offer these specialized policies.
A separate liability insurance policy for your dog may be the only solution if:
- The dog has bitten or attacked someone,
- The dog has been declared dangerous under local law, which requires proof of liability coverage, or
- Local laws require owners of specific breeds carry liability insurance.
Getting adequate insurance for your canine, even if it is a blacklisted breed or has been declared dangerous, is not impossible, nor does it need to be expensive. Specialized dog owner insurance policies can offer the coverage you need to protect your pet and home.