Roughly 66% of American households have at least one pet, many of whom consider these animals essential family members. Despite their place in our hearts, home insurance companies can raise premiums or deny coverage for restricted breeds and other animals with aggressive tendencies.
Therefore, when applying for coverage, you should always inform your insurer of your pet’s breed, weight, and bite history to fully understand your reimbursement rights and guarantee protection against potential liability claims and lawsuits.
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The Importance of Disclosing Your Pets to Insurers
Homeowners insurance companies require detailed information about a home and its inhabitants to calculate policy premiums and restrictions. While withholding specific facts to generate cheaper rates may tempt some individuals, insurers will only honor liability claims caused by animals accurately described in your policy.
Furthermore, lying on your contract could constitute fraud and result in denied claims, policy cancellations, and legal troubles.
To avoid these and other complications, immediately notify your insurer whenever you bring a new pet into your household. While most companies withhold benefits for high-risk animals, knowing they exist can help your insurer suggest alternative protections or obedience programs that could improve coverage limits and premium rates.
How Pets Factor into Home Insurance
All pet owners are legally and financially responsible for their animals’ actions. While homeowners liability insurance will not cover pet damages directly affecting your home or family, it generally pays for medical bills and legal fees resulting from your pets’ interactions with other people and their property. These benefits typically apply regardless of whether an incident occurred off your property or under someone else’s supervision.
About 4.5 million dog bites occur yearly. Related liability claims cost insurers a combined $1,136 million in 2022 alone. With this in mind, home insurance companies enforce tighter restrictions on dogs than any other conventional pet.
Most standard home insurance policies cover pet-related lawsuits and medical bills. However, all these plans adhere to unique coverage limits and exclusions. For example, almost all homeowners insurance policies deny benefits for muscular dogs that can severely harm people with a single bite.
If you have a high-risk animal or want to maximize your potential claims reimbursement, you may consider purchasing a supplementary personal umbrella policy (PUP) or standalone pet liability insurance.
Understanding High-Risk Breeds and Premium Increases
Many insurers see larger dogs, breeds with aggressive tendencies, and smaller animals with checkered histories as high risk due to their likelihood of causing harm to other people and their property. Though exclusions vary depending on state laws and your specific insurance company, restricted breed lists typically include:
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pincher
- German Shepherds
- Pit Bulls
- Presa Canarios
- Wolf Hybrids
Considering their powerful bites and the implicit threat of costly medical bills, most insurers will exclude these animals from coverage or raise affiliated policy premiums. Some insurance companies will even deny coverage for other potentially dangerous animals like horses, snakes, and exotic birds.
How to Offset Premium Increases
Most insurers will work with customers to offset premium increases linked to high-risk animals. For example, some may reduce liability rates for pets in recognized training or obedience programs. Presenting organized records of an animal’s good behavior can also result in adjusted premiums and occasional forgiveness for claims filed years prior.
Some insurers even reward policyholders who take precautionary measures to prevent unnecessary interactions between their dogs and strangers. For example, installing sturdy fencing with a locking gate and a “Beware of Dog” sign will minimize the likelihood of your dog attacking delivery drivers, potentially leading to more affordable home insurance premiums.
Should You Get Pet Liability Insurance?
While homeowners insurance covers most pet-related incidents, some people need separate animal liability insurance policies for additional protection. For example, homeowners liability benefits typically only cover medical bills related to minor wounds and damages. Attacks resulting in costly surgery or prolonged lawsuits would likely exceed your policy’s limits, leaving you to absorb the excess entirely out of pocket.
Securing standalone animal liability insurance can also guarantee you some coverage for conventionally restricted breeds and some smaller animals with bite histories. Depending on your situation, annual premiums for standalone pet coverage can range from $400 to $1,200. However, even insurers that specialize in these benefits will deny coverage for problematic animals with extensive assault records.
All in All
While most people try to instill good habits in their furry friends, even the best-trained animals occasionally behave unpredictably. If your pet unexpectedly attacks someone or their belongings, the onus falls on you as its owner to pay for the resulting medical bills and property damage. Therefore, if you own a high-risk animal, you must structure your home insurance policy accordingly.
Before bringing home a new pet, notify your insurer and ask how it might affect your premium rates and coverage limits. If your insurance company denies benefits due to breed restrictions or an animal’s bite history, inquire about potential solutions like obedience and training programs. If these make little difference, explore alternative coverages like standalone pet liability insurance or a personal umbrella policy.