One area of home insurance many people don’t think about is how pets, specifically dogs, can impact coverage. Without a doubt, dogs are great companions and beloved household members. Out of roughly 126.2 million households in the United States, 36.5% contain at least one dog. For many, pets are what make a house a home.

However, sometimes our canine friends can cause problems.

While no one likes to discuss dog bites, they are an unfortunate reality. In fact, there are 4.5 million dog bites reported annually in the U.S. And what you might not realize, therefore, is how dog ownership can affect your insurance.

One-third of all homeowners liability is attributed to dog bites or scratch injuries. Nationally, the average cost of a claim stemming from a dog bite increased 90% from 2003 to 2017, with the average payment around $37,000.

If you’re a dog owner, here are some things to know.

Three kinds of laws impose liability for dog bites on owners.

  • Dog-bite statue: imposes strict liability on owner for any injury or property damage a dog causes.
  • “One-bite rule:” in some states, the owner is not held liable for a dog’s first bite, but thereafter, the dog is known as vicious.
  • Negligence laws: the dog owner is liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless in controlling the dog.

You are usually exempt from liability related to trespassers. Some insurance carriers exclude coverage for certain breeds and for pets that have a history of biting incidents. You should contact your insurance agent whenever you get a dog to verify that your pet is covered under your current policy.

To mitigate dog bite risks, here are some tips:

  • Consult with an animal professional (i.e., veterinarian, animal behaviorist or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable dog breeds for a household or neighborhood.
  • Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler. Dogs with histories of aggressive behavior are inappropriate for households with children or elderly members.
  • Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If these traits manifest, delay getting a dog. Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog, regardless of breed.
  • Spay or neuter the dog. Studies show that dogs are three times more likely to bite if they are not neutered.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog who is eating or sleeping. Teach children how to play with a dog safely.

Talk to an insurance professional about coverage. For more detailed information, contact Griffith E. Harris Insurance Services, LLC.

Brought to you by Griffith E. Harris Insurance Services, LLC