According to the most recent National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Products Association, nearly 85 million households—or 67% of American homes—have a pet to look after. If you’re in that majority, your furry friend is most likely a very important part of your family. But insurance companies often see your pet as a liability. In addition to damaging your home, pets can harm the property of those who live near you, as well as your neighbors themselves, leaving you and your insurance company liable for all related damages and injuries.
Adding a pet to your homeowners insurance policy might seem like an easy step, but depending on your policy and insurance company, you might need to change your coverage. You could even be denied coverage based on your dog’s breed.
Here’s how getting a dog affects your home insurance, and what you need to think about before bringing Fido home to the family.
How Does Owning a Dog Affect Homeowners Insurance?
If you already have a dog and you’re planning to buy a home, you’ll need to add your pet to your insurance policy when you sign up for coverage. If you’re considering getting a dog after you’ve bought a home, it’s a good idea to review your coverage and see if it includes any restrictions around the types of dogs that are covered.
In most cases, having a dog doesn’t cost you much extra, but in case of incidents such as a dog bite, you’ll need the proper coverage. In 2019, the average cost per claim of a dog bite or another dog-related injury nationwide was $44,760, with California and Florida leading the nation in the number of claims.
Most home insurance policies cover dog-bite liability expenses ranging from $100,000 to $300,000; however, owners are responsible for claims that exceed that amount.
How Your Dog’s Breed Could Impact Your Costs
Some insurance companies won’t cover specific breeds they consider to be more aggressive or dangerous, including:
- Pit bulls
- Alaskan malamutes
- Siberian huskies
- Chow chows
- Doberman pinschers
- German shepherds
The restrictions vary based on where you live, your insurance company, and the type of coverage you have. "Breed-specific legislation" (BSL) is an umbrella term for laws that ban certain dog breeds in an effort to reduce dog-related injuries, but there’s little evidence that these types of laws work.
Some insurance carriers are known to consider the specific animal’s history of aggression (or lack thereof) as well as its training and behavior, rather than its breed. These include State Farm and USAA, according to United Policyholders, a nonprofit insurance information organization.
Some groups, including the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), are against homeowners insurance policies that discriminate against specific breeds. APDT believes that “dangerous” dogs are a product of several factors, including individual genetics and a lack of proper training, and they shouldn’t be judged based on their breed or appearance.
Twenty-one states have statewide bans on breed-specific legislation, whereas some cities and counties have their own laws in place. For instance, Florida bans BSL, but Miami-Dade County has a ban on pit bulls, which was established prior to the statewide legislation.
If you aren’t sure if your dog is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy, or if the state you live in has certain restrictions, review your coverage and contact your insurer. If your dog isn’t covered, you may want to consider switching to an insurance company that doesn’t ban specific breeds.
Tips for Reducing Your Dog-Related Home Insurance Costs
The only way to know how much your dog affects your home insurance costs is to review your policy. Before you get a dog—or if you already have one and are buying a home—compare several different insurance policies to see which ones will cover your pet.
Regardless of your dog’s breed or breeds, it’s a good idea to make sure it's well trained and less likely to cause harm by:
- Keeping your pup up to date on vaccinations
- Socializing early and often with both humans and other dogs
- Training the pup yourself or looking for training opportunities in your community
- Keeping your dog leashed whenever you’re not in an enclosed, private space, including the front yard, if it’s open
- Limiting rough behavior and wrestling
- Knowing when to step back if your dog is likely to be defensive or reactive, especially when it's eating and sleeping
If your homeowners insurance policy has any breed restrictions, ask what you need to do to make sure your pup is covered. Some options include:
- Increasing your liability coverage: You may be able to keep your current policy and simply increase your liability limit to include your dog. Of course, you’ll likely pay a higher premium.
- Buying separate dog liability coverage: If you don’t have the basic coverage you need on your current policy, you may be able to get a separate policy specific to your pet and specific incidents.
- Looking into umbrella liability insurance: This type of policy increases your liability coverage to include both your home’s current limit and one for your dog.