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:

Coming Up: National Dog Bite Prevention Week


Next week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. If you own a dog, you need to pay attention because dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, costing more than $489 million. While the number of bites has declined, the cost of claims continues to rise – the average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $29,752. For more on the ins and outs of insurance issues related to dog ownership, see our prior post, Insurance and Your Dog.
Postal workers – a group of folks who are particularly at risk of dog bites – issued their annual list of top dog attack city rankings, along with their tips for preventing dog bites … and they certainly have experience in that area. If you haven’t yet seen it, visit former mail carrier Ryan Bradford’s posting, All the Dogs Want to Kill Me, where he logged snapshots of dogs lurking on his postal route a few years ago. It’s pretty amusing, unless you are the postal worker or the gas meter reader who has to face the pets down. Here’s a few clips that demonstrate just how territorial and aggressive even seemingly sweet dogs can be over mail deliveries.


In addition to mail carriers, kids are also very vulnerable when it comes to dog bites. Here are some good sites for teaching your kids how to be safe.
Teaching kids how to have safe encounters with dogs
Prevent the Bite – preventing dog bites to children through education
Learn to Speak Dog and Teach Your Kids
Dog Bite Prevention – from the CDC

Insurance and Your Dog


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, 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.

Is your driving going to the dogs?


There are approximately 77.5 million pet dogs in the U.S., and some of them are driving their owners to distraction … literally. In terms of distractions that interfere with driving, dogs are right up there with cell phones and texting. According to a recent survey on habits of dog owners and driving conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and pet product company Kurgo, 80% of the respondents said they’ve taken their pets on errands, day trips or vacations, yet only 17% said they use any form of restraint system. In fact, 21% admitted that they have let their dog to sit on their lap.
Survey respondents admitted to other potentially distracting behaviors, like patting (55%), feeding (7%) or playing with their dog (5%) while driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that looking away from the road for only two seconds doubles your risk of being in a crash. In 2008, there were 6,000 fatalities due to accidents caused by distracted drivers, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In addition to being a potential risk for accidents, driving with unrestrained pets is also very dangerous for the pet.

“Restraining your pet when driving can not only help protect your pet, but you and other passengers in your vehicle as well,” cautioned Jennifer Huebner-Davidson, AAA National, Traffic Safety Programs manager. “An unrestrained 10-pound dog in a crash at 50 mph will exert roughly 500 pounds of pressure, while an unrestrained 80-pound dog in a crash at only 30 mph will exert 2,400 pounds of pressure. Imagine the devastation that can cause to your pet and anyone in the vehicle in its path.”

On the CBS News Early Show, Veterinarian Dr. Debbye Turner Bell shared some easy ways drivers with pets can prevent some of these dangers. You can read her dog restraint safety tips or check out the video below.