Dog Breed Coverage

While your clients may consider dogs to be a part of the family, 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 2017 alone, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars, costing more than $700 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 homeowner’s insurance data found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased to 18,522 in 2017, compared to 18,122 in 2016. The average cost per claim increased by 11.5 percent with the average cost paid out for dog bite claims jumping to $37,051 in 2017 compared to $33,230 in 2016.

“The increase in the 2017 average cost per claim could be attributed to an increase in severity of injuries,” said Kristin Palmer, chief communications officer with the I.I.I. “But the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 90 percent from 2003 to 2017, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs.”

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 uigusa.com or call 800.385.9978.