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Dogs take a bite out of homeowners insurance

On Behalf of | Apr 9, 2021 | Dog Bites |

Because dogs are lovable, loyal, fun companions, they’re very popular pets: about 63 million U.S. households have at least one dog as a pet. Not all dogs are furry friends, however. Because some dogs launch unprovoked, damaging attacks, homeowners and renters insurance policies are increasingly restrictive when it comes to dog owners.

Insurers recognize that dog bite injury claims hurt their bottom lines, which is why they’re observing Dog Bite Prevention Week from April 11-17.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) says that in 2020, insurers paid out $853.7 million in dog bite injury claims. Unsurprisingly, California led the nation in both the number of claims (2,103) and the total paid out: $135.9 million.

Types of injuries in dog attacks

While those numbers make insurers wince, their discomfort is nothing compared to the severe pain and trauma dog bite victims can experience. Dog attacks can result in the following types of injuries:

  • Lacerations: deep cuts or tears in uneven, zig-zag patterns in the victim’s skin, as well as damage to muscles, nerves, bones and blood vessels. Victims should get immediate, professional medical care.
  • Punctures: these deep wounds tend to be smaller than lacerations, but they carry a high risk of infection. Victims should also be taken to a physician or hospital emergency room.
  • Abrasions: these scrapes can often be treated at home, but if there’s bleeding, medical care can help victims avoid infections.
  • Infections: one of the most dangerous post-attack medical conditions, infection symptoms can be pain, swelling, redness and pus. Again, medical attention is a must.
  • Rabies: this can be spread to humans via the saliva of infected animals, usually through a bite. After a bite, try to find out if the dog has been vaccinated.

Deemed dangerous

Some insurers simply won’t insure homeowners and renters who have breeds of dogs categorized as dangerous, including the following:

  • Pit bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • Doberman pinschers
  • German shepherds
  • Staffordshire terriers
  • Akitas
  • Siberian huskies
  • Alaskan Malamutes

Some insurers don’t inquire about the breed when writing a homeowners or renters insurance policy.

Some insurance companies now require dog owners to sign liability waivers, while others charge higher premiums for owners of certain breeds.

The III says the average cost per dog bite claim rose 12 percent last year to $50,425. Dog-related injury claims have risen in recent years, the organization says, because of increased settlements, judgments and jury awards in lawsuits.