Some people think of their dogs as four-legged people, others think of them as property, but your insurance company may think of them as only one thing: A potential liability. Let’s face it, dogs are animals who can sometimes bite, and insurance companies understand this all too well. Some insurance companies also believe that certain breeds of dogs are a greater liability than others. As a result, they have drawn up so-called “dangerous dogs list” to help them to decide whether to insure certain homeowners or not. People that have dogs that are commonly found on these lists may need to shop around a bit before finding coverage.
While each company may have their own list, it doesn’t guarantee anything, as any breed of dog can bite and cause damage that requires medical attention. Just because certain breeds of dogs happen to make the news more often, doesn’t necessarily mean that they truly bite more often than other breeds of dogs. In fact, according to the Humane Society of the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the Centers for Disease Control no one breed of dog is more likely to bite than others. That means even if your dog isn’t on one of the dangerous dog lists, you should do what you can to reduce the chances of a dog bite.
Most Homeowners’ Insurance Covers Dog Bites
Even though we mentioned some insurance companies have lists for certain breeds of dogs that they won’t cover, for the most part homeowners’ insurance or renters’ insurance policies cover liabilities associated with a dog bite. These policies will pay for medical bills, property damage, lawyer fees, lost income, pain and suffering for the victim. Proper insurance is worth the investment, as dog bites are the third most common type of claim reported and the average payout for each dog bite claim is just under $30,000.
Community Consequences Beyond the Bite
It’s important to note that if a dog bites and causes harm, there will be more parties involved than just the victim and your insurance company, the police will probably be called as well. You may have to go to court to pay a fine, and your dog would end up with a public record for biting. Many cities’ animal control departments maintain their own “dangerous dog lists” based on those with a previous biting record. If your dog ever bites someone again, you’ll probably have to pay double or even triple the fines for the repeat offense. Worse yet, you may be required by law to have your dog put to sleep. Your insurance premiums could also go up or your provider may choose not to cover your dog if is a biter with a record.
Protect Yourself and Your Dog
The insurance policy is your safety net, but you should be proactive in reducing the chances your dog bites someone, regardless of the dog’s breed. Follow the “rules” of good dog ownership and you’ll be on a good path towards a low risk for biting:
- The most important step you can take is to keep your dog under control, such as with a collar and leash for outings. A nice, tall fences and solidly built kennels for your yard is a good idea as well.
- Have your dog spayed or neutered to defuse aggression related to hormones.
- Teach your dog obedience and to listen to commands. This will encourage them to listen and pay attention to your orders.
- Carefully introduce your dog to pets and people from outside of the household and they will be less afraid of meeting strangers and strange dogs.
- Minimize the dog’s exposure to stressful things that could cause aggression or
- Supervise all interactions between your dog and any children.
- If there is ever a time when your dog shows aggression, call a vet, even if no real damage was done. They can help to determine if the dog bite was caused by a medical problem and can recommend a behavioral trainer if the vet can’t find a reason.
For the most part, dogs are our companions and our friends – 99% of American dogs never bite anyone seriously. Every once in a while, though, a dog will have a bad day or end up in a bad situation. Dog bites are incredibly rare, but it’s best to recognize this as a possibility and do what you can to mitigate the risks. Follow the advice listed in this article and you’ll be well on your way to reducing the chances your dog will harm someone.