Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dogs?June 24, 2021
Whether a puppy or a full-grown dog, adding a pet to your family is exciting. But, what, if anything, do you need to be aware of as it relates to your new family member, your insurance policy, and the protection provided? Does homeowners insurance cover dogs? What added risks do you need to account for?
A dog can become possessive and protective of you, the children, and your yard. If they are not properly socialized and trained, the stranger who is knocking at the front door may be viewed as a threat and an intruder that needs to be dealt with.
If nothing else, your friendly dog is a second doorbell! Your pet brings some potential added liability exposures to your life and it’s important to just be aware of the additional potential that exists.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dogs?
What happens if the family pet over-reacts and causes harm to someone via a bite or a scratch? What if your dog loves to get exercise chasing a car and gets hit? What if your dog hates the neighbor’s dog and attacks it?
Do you have an insurance claim if the puppy chews on the stair steps? All of these are scenarios that could become a reality when you own a dog. Does your homeowners insurance cover dogs? The short answer is “it depends”. Here is a closer look at each scenario and how it would be possibly addressed by your insurance policy:
Scenario #1 – Your Dog Causes Bodily Injury to a Person
Dogs can be possessive and protective of their owners and property. Even though your dog may have a very pleasant personality, they may follow their natural instincts to protect what they know.
If your dog injures a person, the liability portion of your homeowner’s insurance policy will respond to the injury and damages. Typically, the “Medical Payment” limit will respond first and, if that is exceeded, the General Liability Limit will be triggered. It will only pay up to a maximum of the limit listed on your policy. In a severe case of injury or death, a low limit of less than $500,000 may not be enough to compensate for the damages.
Also, in most cases, the dog will be required to be euthanized or made to be kept in a permanent enclosure, so it cannot come into contact with people in the future. Dogs no longer get a “free bite”. As a side note, if you end up in a situation where you need to euthanize the dog, make sure you contact a vet and use proper methods to avoid being charged with animal cruelty.
Scenario #2 – Your Dog Chases a Car and Gets Hit or Causes an Accident
Although it is dangerous, chasing cars is a favorite pastime of many dogs. The second is that of car chasing, a favorite pastime of many dogs. If your dog is a car chaser, what are your responsibilities? It is fair to say that you are required to keep your dog off the road and public thoroughfares.
If your pet gets on the road and causes an accident, you could be held liable for the damages caused to the vehicles. Again, your Homeowner’s Policy would respond. There would be no coverage for the injury, subsequent vet bills, or replacement cost for your dog.
You may be able to buy a mortality policy for your dog, but it would be expensive and there is very specific language in the policy outlining what is and is not covered. Death by vehicle is almost always excluded.
Scenario #3 – Your Dog Injures Your Neighbor’s Dog
It’s possible that you and your neighbor both have dogs and they don’t get along. If your dog hates their neighbor, they may end up in a fight or cause injuries to the other dog. For this example, let’s say the neighbor’s dog requires veterinary care and your neighbor also needs counseling from witnessing the attack.
In this scenario, your homeowner’s policy will cover the vet bill for the neighbor’s dog. However, it will be up to the adjuster when the claim is filed to determine whether your neighbor’s counseling is covered. It usually isn’t, but that also doesn’t stop your neighbor from attempting to recoup payment or get coverage outside of insurance, like through small claims court.
Scenario #4 – Your Dog Damages Your Home
Another common situation with dogs is property damage. Often, dogs, especially when they are teething as puppies, can damage your home by chewing up things. It’s not unheard of for a homeowner to discover that their puppy has chewed up the tread on the stair steps or something else in the home.
Unfortunately for many dog owners, this scenario is not covered. Direct property damage to your property by your pet is not a covered peril. However, if the dog would chew on an aerosol paint can and cause a rupture that resulted in paint spray all over your floor, you may have a paid claim depending on the levels of perils on your policy.
Scenario #5 – Can a Dog’s Breed Affect Your Home Insurance?
One last consideration is that of dog breeds. Although socialization, training, and how dogs were raised makes the biggest difference, many insurance companies still have a prohibited dog breed list.
This is based on the breed of the dog due to alleged “bite history”, reputation, and potential risk for that particular type of dog. This means if you have a certain dog breed that is on the prohibited list, they will not provide you with a policy. Or, if you have a policy, they will non-renew the policy unless you get rid of the dog.
Also, posting “Beware of Dog” signs do not absolve you of liability. In fact, they increase your liability because you have just publicly admitted you know your dog may bite. We advise, DO NOT POST SIGNS! If you are thinking about getting a dog, you may wish to check with your agent regarding a restricted dog list. Some breeds commonly frowned upon include Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Akitas, and more.
Dogs provide valuable companionship for both children and adults and can be a great addition to the family. However, you do need to be aware of the added liability exposure that comes with them.
If you wish to discuss more and see how your current homeowners insurance covers dogs, please contact one of our personal lines agents at 717-665-2283 or toll-free at 800-537-6880. In the meantime, scratch your dog’s head while you sit on the sofa watching your favorite TV show together.
Disclaimer: Information and claims presented in this content are meant for informative, illustrative purposes and should not be considered legally binding.