How does having a dog affect your home insurance?
According to the most recent National Survey of Pet Owners from the American Pet Products Association, nearly 85 million households, or 67% of American households, have a pet to care for.
If you’re in that majority, chances are your furry friend is a very important part of your family. But insurance companies often view your pet as a liability.
In addition to damaging your home, pets can damage the property of those who live near you, as well as your own neighbors, leaving you and your insurance company liable for all damages related to injuries.
Adding a pet to your homeowner’s insurance policy It may seem like an easy step, but depending on your policy and insurance company, you may need to change your coverage. You could even be denied coverage based on your dog’s breed.
Here’s how having a dog affects your home insurance and what to think about before bringing Fido home to the family.
How does having a dog affect your home insurance?
If you already have a dog and are planning to buy a home, you’ll need to add your pet to your insurance policy when you sign up for coverage. If you’re considering getting a dog after you’ve purchased a home, it’s a good idea to review your coverage and see if it includes any restrictions on the types of dogs that are covered.
In most cases, owning a dog doesn’t cost you much more, but in case of incidents like a dog bite, you’ll need the right coverage. In 2019, the average cost of a dog bite or other dog-related injury nationwide was $44,760, with California and Florida leading the nation in a number of claims.
Most home insurance policies cover dog bite liability expenses ranging from $100,000 to $300,000. However, owners are responsible for claims in excess of that amount.
How Your Dog’s Breed Could Affect Your Costs
Some insurance companies do not cover specific breeds that they consider to be more aggressive or dangerous, including:
- pit bulls
- Alaskan malamutes
- Siberian Huskies
- chow chow
- Doberman pinscher
- German shepherds
Restrictions vary depending on where you live, your insurance company, and the type of coverage you have. Breed-specific legislation (BSL) is an umbrella term for laws that ban certain breeds of dogs in an effort to reduce dog-related injuries, but there is little evidence that these types of laws work.
Some insurance companies have been known to consider the specific animal’s history of aggression (or lack thereof), as well as its training and behavior, rather than its breed. These include State Farm and USAA, according to United Policyholders, a nonprofit insurance information organization.
Some groups, such as the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), are against homeowners insurance policies that discriminate against specific breeds. APDT believes that “dangerous” dogs are the product of various factors, including individual genetics and lack of proper training, and should not be judged based on their breed or appearance.
Twenty-one states have statewide bans on breed-specific legislation, while some cities and counties have their own laws. For example, Florida bans BSL, but Miami-Dade County has a ban on pit bulls, which was put in place before the state legislature.
If you’re not sure if your dog is covered by your owner’s insurance policy or if the state you live in has certain restrictions, check your coverage and contact your insurer. If your dog isn’t covered, you may want to consider switching to an insurance company that doesn’t ban specific breeds.
Tips to Reduce Dog-Related Home Insurance Costs
The only way to know how much your dog affects your home insurance costs is to review your policy. Before you get a dog, or if you already have one and are buying a home, compare several different insurance policies to see which ones will cover your pet.
Regardless of your dog’s breed(s), it’s a good idea to make sure it’s well-trained and less likely to cause harm by:
- Keeping your puppy up to date on vaccinations
- Socialize early and often with both humans and other dogs
- Training the puppy yourself or looking for training opportunities in your community
- Keeping your dog on a leash whenever it’s not in an enclosed private space, including your front yard if it’s open
- Limit rough behavior and wrestling
- Know when to step back if your dog is likely to become defensive or react, especially when eating and sleeping
If your owner’s insurance policy has breed restrictions, ask what you need to do to make sure your puppy is covered. Some options include:
- Increasing Your Liability Coverage: You may be able to keep your current policy and simply increase your liability limit to include your dog. Of course, you will probably pay a higher premium.
- Buy separate dog liability coverage: If you don’t have the basic coverage you need in your current policy, you may be able to get a separate policy specific to your pet and specific incidents.
- Looking for general liability insurance: This type of policy increases your liability coverage to include both the current limit for your home and one for your dog.