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The liability portion of homeowners insurance usually covers injuries and damage caused by your dog, such as if she scratches someone else's furniture or bites someone. However, insurance companies may not cover damage from large-dog breeds or those that have a reputation for being aggressive, as they are a bigger risk to insure. If you have a dog breed that your insurer won't cover, you can 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 restricted varies by provider, and insurance companies don't publish detailed lists of which breeds they do or don't insure. However, commonly restricted breeds include:
- Pit Bulls
- German Shepherds
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Doberman Pinschers
- Great Danes
- Siberian Huskies
- Presa Canarios
- Wolf hybrids
Of 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
Several cities across the U.S. have restrictions or bans on certain dog breeds, most commonly pit bulls and wolf hybrids—take a look at the full list. 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. And if you do decide to adopt a banned or restricted dog breed, 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 Restricted Breed of Dog?
The consequences if your insurer learns you have a restricted dog breed depends 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. But 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 Renters Insurance Restrict Coverage Based on Dog Breeds?
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 to Do If Your Insurer Won't Cover Your Dog
If your insurance company isn't willing to insure your dog, you should start by shopping around at different 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 who will. And even among insurers who do restrict dog breeds, they don't all work from the same list of restricted dogs.
Also, consider a DNA breed test. It's possible that the breed you think your dog is, or which it visually appears to be, might be incorrect. Breed tests can be purchased for $50–$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 through a dog liability insurance policy or 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 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 breed, the good news is that not all insurance companies discriminate based on breed. In fact, insurers in Michigan 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.
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, they look at whether the dog has a bite history.
Other insurance companies who provide insurance to dog owners regardless of breed include USAA and Einhorn Insurance, 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.
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, GEICO, Nationwide and Allstate, among others. Each insurance company has a different list of dogs they are 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 Put Restrictions on Breeds?
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. 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.
Homeowners insurance companies evaluate a range of criteria when determining what rates they offer. In addition to dog breed, these criteria whether a dog has previously bitten anyone or exhibited aggressive behavior, where you live, and what kind of obedience training the dog has received. 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.