A Properly-Trained Fido Will Help Prevent Bites, Costly Insurance Claims

By Darrin Sanger
NW Insurance Council

Homeowners insurers encourage dog owners planning outdoor activities this spring to get their dogs properly trained to avoid unexpected attacks and costly dog-bite insurance claims.

Dog bites account for roughly $317.2 million in liability claims each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite nearly 4.7 million people every year, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries.

"There are millions of positive interactions between people and dogs every day without incident," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "Fortunately, most dog bites can be prevented through education and responsible dow ownership."

Homeowners and Renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. Most policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. If the claim exceeds the limit of a policy, the dog owner is responsible for any damages above that amount., including legal expenses.

Because some dogs are considered more dangerous and cause more severe injuries than others, some insurers have chosen not to underwrite some specific breeds. It's important to contact your local insurance agent to find out if your company insures your dog's breed. Most companies insure homeowners with dogs. Some insurers exclude certain breeds from coverage, while many focus on the individual dog's behavior.

Once your dog bites someone, however, most insurance companies recognize it as an increased risk. Your insurance company then may charge a higher premium, suggest you find the dog a new home, non-renew your Homeowners Insurance policy or exclude your dog from coverage.

"Most dogs are a positive addition to a household," Newman said. "But a dog with a history of biting will be harder to insure, at a minimum, will increase your cost for Homeowners Insurance."

NW Insurance Council offers these tips to help reduce the risk of your dog biting someone:
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Studies show that dogs are three times less likely to bite if they have been neutered.
  • Socialize your dog so that it understands how to act around people and other animals.
  • Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping.
  • Play non-aggressive games such as fetch. Playing aggressive games like tug-of-war can encourage inappropriate behavior.
  • Do not approach a strange dog and avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.

For more information on dog bites and insurance, visit NW Insurance Council or call (800) 664-4942.


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