The best coverage options for your best friend

If you are thinking about adding a four-legged friend to the family, there’s a lot to consider. For instance, what’s the right kind of food to buy? Where can you find a sitter or a walker you can trust? And, how will the dog affect your home insurance coverage?

Okay, maybe that last one hasn’t crossed your mind, especially since we often think of home insurance as a policy that protects you in the event of a fire, or a storm, or even identity theft. But, it can also help safeguard you should your dog bite a visitor. As a result, having a dog — and what kind of dog you have — can be a factor in how much insurance is advisable to buy, and from who you could buy it.

Popular pups

Though all breeds of dogs are prone to biting, some popular breeds, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers and pit bull varieties, are perceived to be “aggressive” breeds for insurance purposes. Having one of these breeds can impact what you pay for your home or renters insurance, or even if you can find coverage at all.

There’s a reason that these and similar breeds may give insurers “paws.” That’s because, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), for every 20 dogs in the U.S., someone gets bitten by one. With 90 million dogs in the U.S., bites are one of the leading causes of liability claims on homeowners policies. And, costs stemming from these claims topped $600 million for the first time in 2016.

A good dog is a good policy

A dog bite on your home claim history can lead to a steep increase in rates, or even a discontinuation of coverage. Fortunately, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has several helpful hints that can help you prevent dog bites, and keep you from getting stuck with more expensive coverage.

  • If you haven’t yet, you should consider spaying or neutering your dog as soon as possible, as early as eight weeks of age. Dogs that aren’t neutered are three times more likely to bite, according to III.
  • Socialize your dog. This helps them feel comfortable and friendly in various situations.
  • Take your dog to humane, reward-based training classes — the earlier the better.
  • Don’t chain or tie your dog outside, and don’t leave them unsupervised for long periods of time. Make sure they are part of the family.
  • Don’t wait for a serious accident. If your dog shows aggressive behavior, seek guidance from your vet or a dog trainer, even if no injury occurred.
  • Teach your children to treat your dog gently and with respect, and don’t leave children unsupervised with your dog.
  • Keep your pup healthy and happy by fulfilling basic animal-care responsibilities. Provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations.

Already have a “best friend”?

Umbrella is ideal coverage that you can add to your policy today if you have an eligible breed of dog.

Additionally, some companies, like The Hanover offer protection specifically geared toward your pets. For instance, pet injury coverage can provide up to $2,500 with no deductible, for injury (or, sadly, burial) expenses related to your dog in the event of a covered auto accident.

Unleash higher limits

Not only are dog bites surprisingly common, but they can be very costly if they result in a homeowners claim, averaging nearly $30,000. Plus, in more than half of U.S. states, a dog’s owner is assumed to be automatically liable in the event of a dog-bite injury.

If a dog bite results in a lawsuit against you, you don’t want to be faced with a claim that exceeds the limits of your standard homeowners coverage. One way to prepare for this is to raise the current coverage limits on your current policy.

Another way is to consider umbrella coverage. It’s extra protection that exceeds the limits of your home policy, to protect you against major losses, such as those that could stem from a lawsuit. Plus, it’s affordable, with $1 million in coverage starting at less than $20 per month. To see how it works, and how much you could have at risk, visit The Hanover’s umbrella calculator.

We don’t mean to hound you, but…

If you are thinking of getting a dog, talk to your independent insurance agent today for coverage that will fit your needs better than a dog sweater.

LC 2018-142