Your annual reminder: Any dog can bite


group of good dogs to illustrate dog bite prevention

This week is Dog Bite Prevention Week and the US Postal Service would like to remind you that although there are about 78 million good doggies here in the U.S., “any dog can bite.” They should know. Their carriers suffer about 6,000 dog attacks a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are victims of dog attacks each year. The most susceptible to dog attacks are small children, the elderly and postal carriers, in that order.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that most, if not all, the dog bites that occur are preventable. They tally some recent numbers: In 2017 there were nearly 350,000 people treated at hospital emergency rooms for non-fatal dog-related injuries. Of those people, there were nearly 10,600 children two years old or younger who visited emergency rooms as a result of dog bites​.

Liability Insurance and Dog Bites

Besides the human and canine trauma that can result, dog bites are also a costly problem. In 2018, dog bites and other dog-related injuries tallied $675 million in liability claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and studies by State Farm. In terms of states, California is #1, with 2166 claims at an average claim cost of $45,542. Florida is #2, with 1281 claims at an average claim cost of $43,893. Texas, Illinois and New York round out the top five states in terms of claims counts and expenses. You can check to see where your state falls on this III interactive state-by-state dog bite liability map.

Your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover and claims related to dog bites, up to the liability limits. If you have a dog, you should talk to your agent about liability limits and also the type of dog you have. I talking about dog bite liability, III says that

“Some insurance companies will not insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, such as pit bulls. Others decide on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether an individual dog, regardless of its breed has been deemed vicious. Some insurers do not ask the breed of a dog owned when writing or renewing homeowners insurance and do not track the breed of dogs involved in dog bite incidents. However, once a dog has bitten someone, it poses an increased risk. In that instance, the insurance company may charge a higher premium, nonrenew the homeowner’s insurance policy or exclude the dog from coverage.”

See our prior post on dog breeds that are sometimes blacklisted by insurance companies.

Helpful dog bite prevention resources

Dogs attacks occur for a number of reasons. The dog may be protecting territory. They may feel threatened by strangers or startled. They may be annoyed if they are eating. American Humane offers these tips for dog owners:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
  • Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
  • Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you can control your dog.
  • Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog’s health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
  • Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog – caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.

Find more dog bite prevention tips:

Ten dog breeds that might cause problems with your home insurance


angry dog with bared teethPeople love their pets so discussions of dangerous dogs can be a controversial topic — but when it comes to insurance, it’s a costly issue. In 2014, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out – a total of more than $530 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The number of dog bite claims are going down – they dropped by 4.7% in 2014 – but the average cost per dog bite claim is climbing. In 2014, it was up 15 percent to $32,072 – compared with $27,862 in 2013.

Some insurance companies will limit homeowners insurance availability based on dog breed or dog history. PropertyCasualty360 has an article on the 10 dog breeds most often blacklisted by home insurance carriers. They say:

“The breed of dog you own could make it more difficult to secure Homeowners insurance. Insurers are hesitant in offering coverage to homeowners who own breeds and mixes that insurers believe are more likely to bite and cause injuries. According to DogsBite.org, more than 700 cities in the U.S. have adopted breed-specific laws since the mid-1980s, following the rise in popularity of pit bulls in the general population.”

Is it legal for an insurance company to deny coverage or otherwise discriminate based on dog breed? Yes, and the MSPCA explains why:

“The law does not prohibit insurance companies from discrimination based on breed. While breed-specific city and town ordinances have been challenged on constitutional grounds, such as due process and equal protection, insurance companies–because they are not part of the government–are not subject to these constitutional restrictions.”

Many insurance companies don’t have a blanket breed ban. The MSPCA cites several national insurers that will instead “… work on a case by case basis, considering the individual dog’s behavior and history, and may require a meet and greet with the dog and/or a Canine Good Citizen certification.”

If you have a dog or are thinking of getting a dog, talk to your insurance agent about the insurance considerations.

Here are some other dogs & insurance resources that might be helpful

 

Don’t let dogs take a bite out of your insurance


dog-bitesMay 17-23 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. The USPS and its partners in the annual promotion report that “… small children, the elderly, and Postal Service carriers — in that order — are the most frequent victims of dog bites. It is also stated that the number of dog bites exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough and mumps, combined. Dog bite victims account for up to five percent of emergency room visits.”

The good news is that the number of dog bite claims are going down – they dropped by 4.7% in 2014. But the bad news is that the average cost per dog bite claim is climbing. In 2014, it was up 15 percent to $32,072 – compared with $27,862 in 2013. Pretty expensive, right?

But that is only part of the story: Insurance Information Institute reports that dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability pay outs last year. Ouch.

If you have a dog, it’s your responsibility to train, control and socialize your pet to minimize the potential for dog bites. It’s also just plain smart from an economic point of view, as you can see by claim costs. And whether you have a dog or not, it’s important to lean about how to prevent bites, how to train kids to be safe around dogs, and what to do if you are bitten. Here are some resources: