If you are thinking of getting a dog, or even if you already have one, it’s critical as either a homeowner or renter to check with your insurance agent to establish or review your liability coverage for dog bites and other canine-related injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs, and last year, the average cost of a dog bite claim was $26,166, according to the Insurance Information Institute — and costs continue to rise due to growing medical costs and larger settlements.
Most states have strict statutes holding owners directly responsible for injuries or damage inflicted by their dogs (you can check your state’s liability statutes here), and some insurance policies exclude dog breeds that are seen as particularly aggressive (see the Top 7 Dangerous Dog Breeds), so in addition to evaluating your ability to care for and properly train a dog, it’s vital to make sure you are covered by your policy, and take steps to minimize any risk of dog bite or other injury.
Tips for dog owners seeking homeowner/renter’s coverage for their dog(s):
- Enroll your dog in obedience classes and work on helping the dog earn a diploma or certification
- Schedule refresher classes for dogs who have already been trained, but are not as attentive as they once were!
- Neuter male dogs to reduce dominance and aggression
- Always keep your dogs on a leash and under control during walks
- If your dog is allowed outside on your property, be sure the area is adequately fenced and protected
- Never leave young children alone with a dog, and always teach them how to behave safely around dogs
- If strangers make your dog nervous, be sure to separate them from new visitors in your home
- To keep canine frustration in check, always make sure your dog is properly exercised, and don’t allow them to be exposed to teasing or taunting
Finally, if you are thinking of getting a dog primarily for home protection, be aware that money spent on increased security measures will ultimately be easier, more reliable, less expensive — and kinder to the animal.