Can You Insure a Dog?

While there may not be an industry-wide “blacklist” of breeds, it’s probably best to check with your homeowners insurance quotes policy agent before you buy a German shepherd, a pit bull, or a rottweiler.

Some insurers have lists of breeds and crossbreeds that they will not insure. The usual suspects are pit bulls, rottweilers, wolf hybrids, huskies, Dalmatians, Airedales, and Great Danes.

A number of other insurers do not maintain a blacklists of breeds, believing that each case has to be considered individually.

One of the reasons some companies deny that they look at dog breeds is because state regulations prohibit them from doing so in certain parts of the country.

Some homeowners insurance quotes companies don’t discriminate by breed. “We believe that there are good dogs and bad dogs within every breed, just as we believe that there are responsible and irresponsible owners,” says Phil Supple of State Farm, the nation’s largest home insurer.

Dan Hattaway, an underwriting consultant for State Farm, says that the company doesn’t even track how many of its home insurance policyholders own dogs. Policyholders do have to answer questions about dogs on the application, however. Specifically, the company wants to know if a dog has ever bitten anyone or if it has been trained for attack purposes.

If it turns out that the dog has bitten someone, State Farm will want to know the circumstances surrounding the bite. “We’ll want to ascertain if it’s ever likely to happen again — if precautions have been taken to prevent it,” says Hattaway. Other factors the company looks at are the seriousness of the injury and whether the attack was provoked or unprovoked.

Considering each case individually
Hattaway gives this example. An Irish Setter gives birth to a litter of puppies. She and the puppies are on the back porch. Some friends come over with their little boy to look at the puppies. Under the supervision of the insured, everything is fine. Everyone goes inside, and parents tell the boy that it is time to leave the dog alone with her puppies.

“Well the adults got to talking about adult things, and the little boy, unnoticed, decides he’s going to go out and pet the puppies. He got bit,” says Hattaway. “When State Farm followed up on the claim, we found that the insured had had the female spayed. She wasn’t going to have any more puppies, and she showed no further aggressive tendencies.” Because the dog’s owner had taken steps to make sure that a similar incident would not occur, State Farm continued his coverage.

Some will ask “Do you own a vicious dog?” on home insurance applications and any previous dog-bite claims will show up on your claims history, which insurers check before issuing a policy. Like State Farm, some insurers will consider whether an attack was provoked or unprovoked.

Insurers are most concerned about unprovoked dog attacks. If your dog has an unprovoked attack in its history, most insurers will cancel or not renew an existing home insurance policy, decline your application for a new one, or attach an exclusion for the dog to the policy. The exclusion means that the insurance policy would not cover any liability claims caused by the dog, making you personally responsible for any medical bills or lawsuits stemming from your dog’s actions.