Fido May be Part of the Family, but is He Covered?

While your clients may consider dogs to be a part of the family (at UIG, we certainly consider Luigi part of ours) as an insurance agent, it’s your job to be wary of them —especially if the dog’s breed happens to appear on the “aggressive,” “dangerous” or “bad dog” lists that are generally prohibited under homeowners insurance policies.

In 2016 alone, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars, costing more than $600 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farmthe largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States.

I.I.I.’s analysis of homeowners insurance data found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased to 18,123 in 2016, compared to 15,352 in 2015 — an 18 percent increase. The average cost per claim, however, decreased by more than 10 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $33,230 in 2016, I.I.I. found, compared with $37,214 in 2015 and $32,072 in 2014.

Being in the business of mitigating risk, it becomes easy to understand why certain dog breeds are widely considered to be a financial risk to insurers, making them hard to cover and usually at a higher premium if coverage is provided at all.

The specific dog breeds prohibited by insurers vary from company to company, but at least five appear on every list, including both purebreds and mixed breeds:

  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman
  • Presa Canario
  • Chow Chow

Statistics show these are among the most aggressive breeds associated reported attacks, some of which are fatal. According to the Centre for Disease Control, dog attacks resulted in 279 human deaths in the U.S. over a 20-year period. Pit Bulls and Rottweilers accounted for more than half of those deaths.

While owners of these types of dogs may feel discriminated against, it’s good to note that the use of such lists is not acceptable everywhere. In the U.S., Michigan and Pennsylvania have restricted the use of dog breed profiling by insurance companies. Ten other states have pending legislation that would similarly prohibit companies to deny insurance to someone based only on the breed of dog owned by their household. These laws propose that insurance companies should only be allowed to deny or revoke a policy or to increase the premium, based on the risk associated with a specifically named dog. That means that the individual dog must have a known history of being aggressive or must have been officially designated as dangerous.

To find out more about dog breed coverages in your area, drop us a line at info@uigusa.com or call 800.385.9978.