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Dog Bites: coverage and costs


What has four legs and accounts for more than one-third of homeowners insurance liability claims? Dogs, or more specifically dog bites.

Insurance Coverage for Dog Bites

Homeowner and renters insurance policies typically limit dog bite liability, commonly to $100,000 to $300,000 per claim. Dog owners are responsible for any damages above their coverage limit. In addition, once a dog has bitten someone, insurance companies can make demands on the homeowner due to the increased risk. They may charge a higher premium, exclude the dog from coverage, or nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy.

Some insurance companies are taking measures before a dog bite claim is filed. They may ask dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, or charge more for owners of certain “dangerous” breeds, like pit bulls, boxers, and rottweilers. Before you bring home a new dog, review your homeowners insurance policy.

The Facts about Dog Bites

  • Each year homeowners file well over 16,000 claims, with an average cost of $29,732 per dog bite1
  • The American Pet Products Association estimates that 57% of households own at least one dog.
  • There are about 83 million pet dogs in the United States.2
  • 4.5 million people suffer from dog bites each year.3
  • Children and senior citizens are the most likely dog bite victims to be hospitalized for treatment.

Almost half of people hospitalized for dog bites were treated for infections, and more than half received complex procedures such as skin grafts. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs.

Dogs vs Security Systems

Dogs can be great pets, but do they protect their owners’ homes and property? Long before electronic home security systems became commonplace, people used guard dogs. So why do insurance companies give homeowners a discount for installing a security system, but not for owning a dog?

“I would say your well-installed alarm probably is better than a dog,” says Sgt. John Delaney, a spokesperson for the police department in Springfield, Mass. “There are people out there who break into the house and they steal the dog, too. A lot of dogs, if they are not Dobermans or German Shepherds that go after strangers, more than likely will cower in a corner. The alarm company will never cower away.” 4

1. Insurance Information Institute, Dog Bite Liability, Dec 2013, http://www.iii.org/issues_updates/dog-bite-liability.html

2. 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/dog-bites/index.html

4. insure.com, What’s the better security system: Dog or home alarm? http://www.insure.com/home-insurance/home-security-systems.html

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