Q

Does homeowners insurance cover dogs?

A

Certain parts of your policy will cover dog-related claims, but it depends on the type of damage, your dog’s breed, and other factors.

Pat Howard 1600Kara McGinley

By

Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a senior editor at Policygenius specializing in property and casualty insurance. His work has been featured on Property Casualty 360, Fatherly, MarketWatch, and more.

&

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Updated November 23, 2021|4 min read

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Dog-related liability claims cost homeowners around $50,000 on average in 2020, which is almost double the average cost of standard, non-dog-related liability claims. [1]  

As claim expenses increase over time, some insurers are writing policies that exclude certain breeds from coverage, like pit bulls and rottweilers. They may even outright refuse to cover you based on your dog’s breed. 

However, animal activist groups are pushing legislation that forbids or limits breed discrimination. Illinois, Nevada, and New York have all passed such legislation.

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How does homeowners insurance cover dogs?

A standard homeowners insurance policy offers coverage for injuries caused by most dogs under the personal liability and medical payments to others parts of your policy.

Personal liability coverage

If someone was bitten by your dog and they file a lawsuit against you for damages, the personal liability part of your policy will cover expenses related to the incident, including:

  • Your legal counsel

  • Plaintiff’s legal expense

  • Reward if the plaintiff wins the suit 

  • Costs if your dog destroys someone else’s valuable property

If you own a dog that weighs over 50 pounds, consider increasing your liability coverage

Most insurers offer a minimum liability coverage amount of $100,000. But if you own a large dog, you may want to consider coverage in the neighborhood of $300,000 or higher

If your dog were to seriously injure a stranger, you’d be on the hook for some costly medical bills. And that’s not including the legal reward for pain and suffering that could be far higher – potentially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Medical payments to others coverage

If your dog bites someone and they choose not to sue, they may still need expensive medical treatment. That’s where your medical payments to others coverage kicks in. Coverage limits typically start at $1,000 and max out at $10,000

Learn more about how homeowners insurance covers dog bites

When is your dog not covered?

If your dog bites a stranger and your dog’s breed is excluded from your policy, your insurer won’t reimburse you for the ensuing legal and medical expenses. Here are two other scenarios when insurance won’t cover your dog. 

When it causes damage to your home or other structures

If your dog chews through your home’s drywall or breaks through your backyard fence, your home insurance may not cover the cost for repairs. 

Homeowners insurance is designed to cover sudden and accidental damage that you — the homeowner — couldn’t have prevented, like damage from a windstorm or a break-in. Insurance companies will likely view damage caused by your pet as preventable — either with better training or supervision — so the loss won’t be covered.

When it causes damage to your personal property

If your dog tears your sofa to shreds or damages other types of property within your home, that’s also not likely to be covered by your home insurance policy. However if someone else’s dog damages your home or property, you may be compensated by the liability portion of their homeowner’s insurance policy.

What dog breeds affect homeowners insurance?

Certain dog breeds are responsible for an overwhelmingly high number of dog bite claims. As a way to minimize what they view as a high-risk and expensive liability issue, some insurers exclude coverage for certain breeds or refuse to cover your home altogether.

Many insurers have restrictions against the following breeds:

  • Akita

  • Alaskan malamute

  • Any wolf breeds

  • Chow chow

  • Doberman pinscher

  • German shepherd

  • Great Dane

  • Pit bull terrier

  • Presa Canario

  • Rottweiler

  • Siberian husky

  • Staffordshire terrier

In certain states, dog breed discrimination may be banned

Dog groups have been lobbying state legislators to ban insurers from refusing coverage due to dog breed. So far, three states have implemented legislation to limit breed discrimination: 

  • Illinois

  • New York

  • Nevada

What to do if your dog isn’t covered

If an insurer refuses you coverage because you have a pit bull, for instance, you’ll need to re-shop your home insurance policy to find a more lenient insurer. 

Don’t know where to start? Have an expert agent at Policygenius do the work for you. Simply begin the online quote process to be connected with a licensed agent who can look over your policy and make coverage recommendations based on your dog’s breed.

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12 home insurance companies that don’t discriminate based on dog breed

Some dog-friendly insurance companies include:

  • AIG

  • American Family

  • Chubb

  • Encompass

  • Hippo

  • Nationwide

  • Plymouth Rock

  • Safeco

  • SageSure

  • State Auto

  • State Farm

  • USAA

Even better, many of these companies are partner carriers with Policygenius. Speak to an independent expert on our team who can help you weigh your options based on your coverage needs.

4 tips for dog owners shopping for home insurance

Here are a few pointers and coverage considerations to keep in mind as a dog owner when shopping for insurance. 

Understand your state’s dog liability laws

Most states implement one of three types of liability laws for dogs:

  • Dog-bite statute: You’re legally responsible for any type of injury or property damage your dog causes. Although these laws refer to dog bites, they generally include all types of dog-inflicted injuries.This means if your dog bites someone, they’re able to sue you in civil court for damages.

  • One-bite rule: You’re only legally responsible for an injury caused by your dog if the victim can prove you knew beforehand that they were aggressive or prone to causing injury. If this is your dog’s first incident and they have no history of acting aggressively, you may not be liable.

  • Negligence laws: You’re only liable if the court can prove you were careless and didn’t take the proper steps to control your dog, which resulted in the injury.

Take precautions

 While your dog may be comfortable around you, they might feel threatened or scared when met with strangers, unfamiliar dogs, or boisterous kids. Because of this, your insurer may require anything from obedience training to a certain type of yard-fence as a prerequisite for coverage.

Consider pet liability insurance

If your insurance company deems your dog a “dangerous breed” and it’s excluded from coverage, you may want to consider buying a pet liability insurance policy. This provides coverage for all breeds in the event your dog injures a person or another dog. 

Your home insurance company may offer a rider or standalone pet liability policy. If not, you may be able to buy a policy from a specialized liability insurer.

Look into  personal umbrella coverage

If your dog is covered, you may still want to consider supplementing the liability portion of your policy with umbrella coverage

Offered by most major insurers as either an add-on to your policy or standalone policy, umbrella coverage increases your liability limits in $1 million increments. It protects you against the more expensive lawsuits that may exceed the $500,000 coverage liability limit in standard policies.

Some umbrella policies may also extend coverage to your friend’s personal property. So if your dog rips their $3,000 mink coat to shreds, your liability coverage may kick in as long as the policy covers your dog. Most umbrella policies range anywhere from $150 to $250 annually.

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