According to State Farm insurance company, almost 5 million people are bitten or attacked by dogs each year. The Insurance Information Institute estimates in 2011, insurers across the country paid nearly $479 million in dog bite claims. Many insurance companies try to limit their risk by blacklisting breeds that are known to be dangerous, meaning their owners have to pay more or don't qualify for homeowners insurance coverage.
Insurance companies can elect to ban particular dog breeds. Some insurance companies will still provide coverage, but they might charge higher premiums if a dangerous dog is on the property. The breeds insurance companies believe pose the greatest risk of incident are labeled as "dangerous." The dangerous dog category includes pit bulls, rottweilers, chow chows, German shepherds, Siberian huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers, Presa Canario bulldogs, Great Danes, boxers, Akitas and wolf hybrids. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, it is illegal for insurers to discriminate against dogs based on breed. .
Some companies do not restrict breeds but base the decision to offer insurance on the dog's behavior history. Certain companies believe that other factors aside from the breed affect a dog's temperament. State Farm follows the slogan "It's not the breed, it's the bite." The company requires customers to answer questions about their dog's history on the insurance application. The company wants to know if the dog has bitten anyone or if it has been trained for attack purposes. A prior dog bite incident will show up on an applicant's claims history, which insurers check before issuing a policy. A dog bite is not always an automatic denial. State Farm considers the circumstances and any corrective action you took before making a decision. PEMCO's underwriting looks at factors including the dog's age, gender, training and living conditions when deciding to offer a policy. Once a dog has bitten someone, the insurance company may charge a higher premium or exclude the dog from coverage. Companies can even make customers sign a waiver of liability for dog bites.
Reducing the Risk
If your dog is considered a risk, inquire about what you can do to help lower insurance rates. Consider putting up a privacy fence and spaying or neutering the dog to improve its disposition. You can prove yourself a responsible pet owner by enrolling your dog in the American Kennel Club's Good Citizen Program. The American Kennel Club states that insurance companies are starting to use the Canine Good Citizen program to insure breeds they would not otherwise insure.
Even if you have been insured with the same company for several years, do not assume your current policy provides coverage for your pet. Insurance companies modify policies and coverage on a regular basis. If your company is not aware you own a "dangerous" dog but finds out, your policy may be immediately canceled. If an incident with the dog occurs on your property, the insurance company can deny your claim, leaving you responsible for the bill.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.