How pet owners can avoid homeowners insurance liability claims


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UPDATED: 2017-12-14T15:23:28.471Z
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Puppy bites a ribbon

National Dog Bite Prevention week runs from April 9–15, 2017, which makes this a good time to talk about dogs and homeowners insurance policies. While it’s hard to get an exact figure, it is estimated that there are between 70 to 78 million dogs kept as pets in the U.S., and that around 45 percent of households have at least one dog. That’s a lot of dogs, and every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 4.5 million people get bitten by dogs. More than half of those bites occur in homes, with dogs that are known.

Many of those bites lead to insurance claims, which is why it is so important that pet owners with dogs do two things: one, know what their policies cover; and two, take steps to reduce the risk of dog bites, because many if not most of the dog bites that happen are preventable.

The coalition behind National Dog Bite Prevention week includes some interesting partners. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Postal Service, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), State Farm, American Humane, and Victoria Stilwell, a world-renowned dog trainer, are all part of the effort to increase awareness and reduce dog bites.

Analysis done by I.I.I. contains some sobering statistics:

  • Dog bites and other related dog injuries represent more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2016
  • The number of dog bite claims in 2016 was 18,123 — up from 15,352 in 2015, representing an increase of 18 percent
  • The average cost per claim has risen nearly 70 percent between 2003 and 2016

All of this means that if you are a homeowner with a dog, your insurance carrier is going to view your running buddy as a potential risk.

How can pet owners avoid a homeowners insurance claim?

First and most importantly, homeowners with dogs need to be responsible owners. Any dog can bite if provoked, scared, or if it perceives a threat to its owner or food (and obviously a mother dog will protect her puppies). So, know your dog, and don’t put your dog into a situation where it might feel provoked, threatened, or scared.

The best way to avoid a dog bite claim is to prevent bites from happening in the first place. Children between the ages of 5–9 are the most likely to get bitten and are the most likely to need medical attention resulting from a bite. Don’t leave small children unattended with a dog. Teach children how to behave around dogs, especially if there are dogs in the neighborhood.

Know and understand your homeowners insurance policy

Laws and regulations surrounding dogs and liability vary from state to state, and sometimes even within local jurisdictions. The Insurance Information Institute notes that some insurers are capping their liability exposure, so any claims above the amount of liability coverage will be the responsibility of the homeowner. Some insurers won’t cover certain dog breeds and others won’t provide insurance at all if you have a dog. This means it is very important to take the time to research insurers if you have a dog and are a homeowner.

Dogs can be wonderful companions, and they are full-fledged family members for some of us. But they are a responsibility too, and everyone should know what steps to take to prevent dog bites from happening.


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