If you’re a potential home owner with a breed of dog that is considered to have the potential for being aggressive, you may want to investigate insurance policies. These days, many insurance companies are being picky about what dogs there are willing to insure in a home owners insurance policy.
Insurers state that these breed-specific policies are based on the fact that dog bites account for a quarter of all of all home-owner claims, costing around $321 million. In 2002 this was $16,600 per bite.
Dog bites frequently require expensive cosmetic surgery for disfiguring scars. Most home owner policies provide between $100,000 and $300,000 of liability coverage for dog bites. Trying to save money in claims, some insurance companies ban certain dogs from being insured to avoid the possibility of a big claim being filed.
The most common breeds that are blacklisted are Akita, Alaskan malamute, bulldog, bullmastiff or mastiff, chow, Doberman, German shepherd, husky, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Staffordshire terrier (pit bull) and any combination of these the breeds.
This sort of canine profile has got some dog owners biting mad. A national law was proposed last year backed by the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs and Responsible Dog Owners that would make it illegal for insurance companies in the state to refuse to homeowner’s coverage or increase premiums based on specific breeds of dogs. Ten other states have pending legislation that would also prohibit dog breed profiling. These laws propose insurance companies can only drop a policy or increase the premium based on the dangers of a dog if the dog has a history of being aggressive or has been designated as dangerous.
The insurance companies say that this law will not work. Basically, by the time the dog has bitten someone and been deemed dangerous, there has already been a claim filed. It’s too late then for the insurance company not to take a hit. They see their only recourse as banning certain breeds.
Still, dog lovers are incensed that an entire breed should be banned just because of a few bad apples. Generally, dogs bite because of bad dog owners not because of genetics. It has also been suggested that coverage decisions should be based on whether or not a dog has been spayed or neutered (70 percent of all dog attacks involve unneutered males), the state of the fencing around the home, the amount of obedience training the dog has had and its history.
Fortunately, not all insurers limit coverage for owners of certain breeds of dogs. State Farm Insurance and Fireman’s Fund Insurance won’t ask you what breed of dogs you keep in your home. Specialty insurers, which tend to charge more for insurance, also tend to overlook whatever breed of dog you own. The bottom line is that if you get dropped, you can probably still get insured, it’s just going to cost you more.
Not all animal-related insurance claims are bites though. Some are a little more light-hearted. Last year a home owner returned from work to find that their Labrador had dipped his tail into a paint tray that had been left out and used his makeshift brush to wag white paint across the living room. Another dog, a Doberman pinscher named Victoria set two fires in Vancouver. Victoria managed the two instances of canine arson by jumping up and pushing a button on the old stove in her home, which turned on a burner. The second fire caused nearly $100,000 of damage. Dogs like the Labrador Picasso and the fire bug Doberman are also likely to get your insurance rates raised.
When all is said and done though, our dogs are family and a little extra insurance is may be a small price to pay.
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