What’s the big deal with dogs and homeowners insurance?

If you’ve ever applied for homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, you were probably grilled about what dogs and other pets you have.

The primary reason for this is that dogs sometimes bite people, and when they do the resulting lawsuits can be very expensive. The average dog bite claim is about $25,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute.  Claims can often drag on for years because children bitten by a dog often have the right to sue when they reach adulthood, regardless of normal statutes of limitations.

Insurance companies have lists of unacceptable dog breeds.  The breeds on the list can be from past claims they’ve had, advice from experts, or just bias or preconceptions on the part of the people making up the list.  Some breeds that are on most lists include:

  • akitas
  • pit bulls
  • chows
  • dobermans
  • rottweilers
  • shar-peis
  • wolf hybrids

Other large breeds like St. Bernards, Mastiffs, and German Shepards can be considered undesirable because they can hurt someone by jumping.

Most insurance companies will also frown on exotic or untamed animals.  Large or poisonous snakes and lizards, zoo animals, and untamed farm animals typically make the list.

In most cases (at least in New York) the insurance company simply declines to write coverage if you have an animal on their prohibited list.  Some companies go a different route and issue a policy with an exclusion for any liability resulting from a prohibited animal. If you get a prohibited animal after the policy is issued, companies can cancel your coverage if they find out. (Don’t even think about covering up the existence of a prohibited pet; misrepresentation is the easiest way for a company to deny or cancel coverage.)

There have been some efforts to introduce legislation to prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against certain dog breeds, but these efforts have been largely unsuccessful.

If you have trouble getting coverage, check around.  Some companies have more leeway than others in dealing with pets.

For more information, drop by our website at www.albionagencies.com, or get in touch with me.

The information in this post is general in nature, and geared toward insurance conditions in Western New York.  As always, you should speak with an insurance adviser to determine your specific insurance needs.

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