Americans share their homes with 90 million dogs. For the most part, these pets add joy to our lives and can even help us live longer. However, some dogs become aggressive once they leave the familiar sights and scents of home. Find out whether your home insurance policy covers dog bites, what your liability is as a pet owner and how to prevent dog bites.
Dog Bite Coverage Under Home Insurance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that dogs bite 4.5 million people annually. Sadly, children aged 5-9 years old account for the highest percentage of those victims. This can also pose a legal and financial burden on dog owners.
The good news is that home insurance policies usually cover the liability expenses of dog bites, up to your liability limits, even if the incident happens outside the home.
Dog Owner's Liability
Even if your insurance pays for dog bites, it's a good idea to know your legal obligations. Three kinds of laws impact the liability of pet owners, as follows:
- Dog-bite statute: Regardless of provocation, liability falls on the dog owner, who pays for injuries or property damage.
- One-bite rule: The owner must cover the cost of injuries or property damage if they know the dog is dangerous.
- Negligence laws: These laws cover the responsibility of negligent dog owners who fail to control their dog.
How to Prevent Dog Bites
Many times, owners can prevent dog bites by following some basic safety practices, such as:
- Don't encourage strangers to pet your dog
- Ask strangers to stand to one side to let you pass with your dog.
- Keep your dog on a short leash, especially if you know they tend to become violent around strange animals or people.
- Don’t let your dog approach an unfamiliar dog.
- Supervise any small children who want to play with your dog.
- Don't walk your dog in an unfamiliar area if it's hurt, sick or agitated.
- Try positive obedience steps with your dog. It should know when it can trust strangers, and when it needs to be on alert.
Certain breeds have a predisposition for aggressive behavior. Between 2005 and 2018, dogs killed nearly 500 Americans. Pit bulls and rottweilers account for 76% of those deaths. If you love these breeds, determine whether there are restrictions that impact your home insurance coverage before bringing home one of these dogs.
It's a good idea to know your rights and responsibilities before you take your dog out in public or let him interact with your guests at home. Don't use up your home insurance liability limit on a preventable incident.