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The liability portion of homeowners insurance usually covers injuries and damage caused by your dog, such as property damage or bites. However, insurance companies may not cover damage from large dog breeds, such as pit bulls, rottweilers and Dobermans, or those that have a reputation for being aggressive, as they are a bigger risk to insure.
If your insurer won't cover your restricted breed of dog, you can better protect yourself from liability by purchasing dog-specific liability insurance or, in some cases, umbrella liability coverage.
Which dog breeds are restricted by insurers?
Exactly which breeds of dog are considered dangerous and restricted varies by provider and state. An aggressive dogs list might include:
- Pit bulls
- German shepherds
- Staffordshire terriers
- Chow chows
- Alaskan malamutes
- Doberman pinschers
- Great Danes
- Siberian huskies
- Presa Canarios
- Wolf hybrids
Of the breeds on this list, pit bulls, rottweilers and wolf hybrids most often have some kind of limit and are more likely to have a severe restriction or be prohibited altogether. If you own one of these breeds, your home insurance company might require you to exclude dog liability coverage from your policy, increase your rates or cancel your policy altogether.
Dogs restricted by city ordinances
Dozens of cities across the U.S. have restrictions or bans on certain dog breeds, most commonly pit bulls and wolf hybrids. If your city has a breed law on the books, it may be difficult or impossible for you to legally own one of the banned dog breeds.
If you do decide to adopt a banned or restricted dog breed despite local laws, your insurer will likely decline coverage in case of an incident or even cancel your policy altogether. Insurers generally won't cover you in case of an illegal act, and owning a banned dog is no exception.
What happens if I have a pit bull or another restricted breed?
The consequences if your insurer learns you have a restricted dog breed depend on several variables, including exactly which breed you have, your particular insurer's policies and where you live. The most common result is that insurers will increase your insurance premiums.
A nationwide ValuePenguin analysis found that rates went up 1% if a policyholder had a breed of dog some insurers consider aggressive.
However, if your dog is one of the most notorious breeds, like a pit bull or a wolf hybrid, you're more likely to have to agree to an exclusion. If this happens, your liability insurance would not cover you in the event of a dog bite. Or, your insurer might not agree to sell you homeowners liability coverage at all, especially if your dog has previously exhibited signs of aggression.
Does homeowners insurance cover dog bites?
Typically your homeowners insurance does cover dog bites, as long as you don't have a restricted breed. If your dog bites someone and you're sued, your policy's liability portion would cover the resulting expenses. However, making liability claims can result in much higher future rates.
Do renters insurance companies have breed restrictions?
Just like homeowners insurance, renters insurance includes liability protection if your dog causes injury or property damage. And some renters insurance policies will also base coverage decisions on what breed of dog you have.
If you own a pit bull and rent your apartment, for example, you may have to pay a higher premium, or your renters insurance may not provide coverage for damage your dog causes.
What should I do if my insurer won't cover my dog?
Even though many insurers restrict dog breeds, they don't all work from the same list of restricted dogs, so you may be able to get a policy elsewhere.
If your insurance company isn't willing to insure your dog, you should start by comparing multiple insurance companies. Not all insurers discriminate based on dog breed, so if your current company won't sell you a home insurance policy, you are likely to be able to find another insurer that will.
Also, consider a DNA breed test. It's possible that the breed you think your dog is, or that it visually appears to be, might be incorrect. Breed tests can be purchased for $50 to $200 online, or you can have your veterinarian administer one. If you can definitively prove your dog is not actually a restricted breed, you may be able to argue your case with your insurance company.
If shopping around isn't an option and you're sure you have a restricted breed, you may be able to protect yourself with a dog liability insurance policy or an extended umbrella policy.
Dog-specific liability policies cover damage your dog has caused, whether it's damage to property or injury to a person. These are sometimes available bundled with your homeowners insurance or with a specialized pet insurance provider.
Umbrella liability insurance policies, on the other hand, supplement the liability portion of all your existing coverage, including homeowners, renters or automobile policies. Umbrella policies can fill in "gaps" in your overall coverage, such as damage from your dog.
Plus, umbrella coverage is generally inexpensive for the dollar amount of coverage it provides. However, some umbrella policies only extend the coverage limits for events you're already insured for. Go over the details of the policy carefully to make sure it will protect you before signing up.
Which top insurers don't discriminate by dog breed?
If you're having trouble getting homeowners insurance because of your dog's breed, the good news is that not all insurance companies discriminate based on breed. In fact, insurers in Michigan, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania are not permitted to deny coverage to homeowners based on the breed of their dog, nor can they exclude your dog from liability coverage.
State Farm a top option
Even if you live in another state, some insurers are more dog-friendly than others. State Farm stands out because it does not consider dog breed at all when deciding how to insure dogs under homeowners liability insurance. Instead, it looks at whether the dog has a bite history.
Other insurance companies that provide insurance to dog owners regardless of breed include USAA and Chubb, but these companies may charge you more for owning a restricted breed of dog, so it's still worth shopping around to get the best deal. They might also deny coverage for a dog with a history of biting incidents.
Insurance companies that do discriminate by dog breed
On the other hand, some companies have gone on record saying that they do consider a dog's breed when deciding whether to insure it. These include Farmers, Progressive and Nationwide, among others.
We analyzed insurance filings from some of the largest home insurance providers in the country to see which dogs certain insurers may ban. Depending on the state, not every company and subsidiary will match this list, and certain insurers will also ban dogs with a history of biting.
Each insurance company has a different list of dogs it is concerned about, so you may be able to buy a policy from one of these insurers, even if others won't cover you.
Why do some homeowners insurance companies have breed restrictions?
Home insurance companies evaluate a range of criteria when determining what rates they offer, including how likely the policyholder is to make expensive claims — like liability claims for dog bites.
Many insurance companies consider your dog's breed when deciding whether to offer you homeowners insurance or the rate to charge you. Breed is not a perfect indicator of whether a dog will bite someone or cause property damage.
Do I need to tell my insurer my dog's breed?
Yes. In fact, if you fail to disclose your dog's breed when buying a policy, it could lead to your home insurance company not covering related claims.
However, a dog's breed influences its temperament, such as whether it is easily startled or if it has a tendency to protect its owner. Furthermore, different dog breeds vary greatly in size and strength, and larger dogs have an easier time hurting someone or causing damage to property, even if it's only an accident.
Injuries and property damage due to dogs are some of the most common liability claims made for home insurance policies. And insurance companies want to match the rates they charge to how likely a dog is to cause damage, and to altogether avoid insuring dogs that are too unpredictable.
We assembled restricted dog lists from publicly available insurer filings. The filings included insurers and some subsidiaries.
Rates for owners of certain dogs were compiled using Quadrant Information Services. Rate data came from publicly available rate filings.