Your dog melts at the sight of strangers. And any dog, from a fluffy nose-licker to the sturdiest German shepherd, can be poorly socialized and bite. Still, some homeowners insurance companies won’t insure you if you own a certain dog breed.
It’s hotly debated whether or not some dog breeds are inherently dangerous. But the fact remains that insurance companies shell out around $800 million a year in payouts for dog bites. Some companies shy away if they think your dog might be aggressive.
Many companies that sell homeowners insurance have a blacklist of aggressive dog breeds. If your breed is on the list, they won’t sell you insurance under any circumstances. The same can be true of renter’s insurance companies.
That doesn’t mean you have to pay extra for a certain breed or go bare without insurance to keep your pit bull. Here’s how insurers view different dog breeds and how to get insurance no matter what prized pooch you own.
The personal liability part of homeowners insurance pays for injuries caused by family members, and that includes the family dog. If your dog bites someone on your property — whether a family member or friend — insurers could owe a large settlement.
Dogs are a risky bet for insurance companies. More than a third of home insurance liability payouts in 2016 involved injuries from dogs. The average settlement was serious money — around $44,760 in 2019.
Insurers also worry that a stronger, more aggressive dog could damage your home and they’ll end up footing the bill for your new couch.
The dog blacklist reflects a belief by some insurers that certain breeds have a genetic tendency to be aggressive. If your dog is on the list, they won’t sell you a policy or they’ll hike the rates. Common blacklisted breeds include:
Other breeds that can make it hard to get insurance include:
Terriers make the list because size isn’t the only factor. A tendency to snap and bite is what counts. The list isn’t inclusive and can vary by carrier.
Some insurance companies don't discriminate against certain breeds, but believe that all dogs are created equal. They have no penalty for different dog breeds:
State Farm doesn’t ask what breed of dog you own when writing homeowners or renters insurance. They say that under the right circumstances, any dog can bite, no matter the breed.
USAA has no breed restrictions for homeowners or renters insurance.
Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, Amica, and Chubb work on a case-by-case basis, looking at the dog’s history and behavior.
Einhorn Insurance states they are “proud pit bull owners and advocates” and insure families with any breed, basing coverage on the individual dog.
Dean insurance covers you no matter what breed you own, but you must provide details about your dog’s habits and history.
Einhorn and Dean insurance companies also offer add-on dog liability insurance, which is discussed below.
If your dog is a prize-winner or just the pride of the neighborhood, you might convince your carrier to sell you a policy even if your dog is on the blacklist. Ask your vet to send a letter proving that your dog has a clean record with no aggressive incidents. Your agent might decide to cut you a break.
Getting your dog a Canine Good Citizen certificate could help with insurance and train your pet along the way. This 10-skill program puts your dog through their paces on good manners and obedience, with the certificate as the reward.
In Michigan, it’s illegal to use “breed profiling.” Insurers can’t deny, cancel, or fail to renew a policy based on the insured’s dog breed.
Pennsylvania law makes it mandatory for owners of a dangerous dog to have at least $50,000 in liability insurance. But it’s illegal to deny a policy based on dog breed. Companies can set higher rates to reflect the risk.
Many companies that sell renter’s insurance also put dogs on the “steer clear” list because of the breed. But you’ve probably seen pit bulls or other large breeds in the yards of rental homes. Dogs live in four out of 10 U.S. homes, so their owners are getting insurance somewhere.
Most of the same companies that sell homeowner’s insurance for all dog breeds will do the same for renter’s insurance. But if you still can’t find an affordable renter’s policy, there are insurance policies just for dogs.
Dog liability insurance works the same as other insurance. You pay a monthly premium, and if your dog bites someone or damages property, you can file a claim. Many companies offer this as add-on coverage.
Whatever route you choose, make sure to get a policy. You’re taking a big risk if you go without insurance and own a dog. Most landlords don’t provide insurance for dog bites, so you could be stuck with an eye-popping bill if the worst happens.
American homes hold almost 90 million dogs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year.
Among children, the highest injury rate is for kids 5 to 9 years old.
It’s not true that most dog bites come from random encounters. More than half of all dog bite injuries happen at home with dogs that are well-known to the person being bitten.
Although homeowners liability policies will cover dog bites, in many policies there’s a limit (often between $100,000 and $300,000.) If the injuries cost more than that, the dog owner is responsible for the rest.
If you’re quoted a high rate for homeowners insurance because of your dog, here are some outside-the-box tips to try:
Get a DNA test for your dog to find out if Scout is really a Rottweiler or Tessa is actually a terrier. You can’t always tell a dog’s breed by looking at it. But you can find out for sure with an online DNA test.
Use this information to truthfully tell your insurance agency that no, Scout is not mostly a Rottweiler. You’ll also learn some fascinating things about your dog:
Your dog’s ancestry back to their great-grandparents
Their vulnerability to more than 25 medical conditions
Their genetic traits, from coat and eye color to their ideal weight
Or, opt for a lower coverage amount. Coverage limits are mainly in case of dog attacks. Coverage should be at least 100,000 for low-risk breeds and $300,000 for higher-risk breeds. But you might have to settle for a coverage level you can afford.
Some insurers will also sell you a policy if you agree to place restraints on your dog, which could include a muzzle, chain or locked kennel.
If you’re looking for a fast, easy online broker for homeowners insurance, PolicyScout can help you compare policies, including those that allow certain dog breeds. You might also want to check out our list of 10 Things You Think Are Covered by homeowners insurance, but might not be.
And if you’re looking for health insurance for your dog of any breed, check out our primer on comparing pet health insurance plans.