Pit bulls are a popular dog breed for pets in the US. However, many insurance companies see them as a potential liability. According to Moyses and Shirley Baldizan of Sacramento, their big and loveable pit bull Rocky would never hurt anyone, but the insurance company does not care. The retired couple have recently discovered that their homeowner’s insurance policy will not provide coverage now that they know the family has a pit bull. The insurance company has classified the breed as “risky” to insure. Moyses, 81, was surprised, saying, “…I was very upset about it. We love our dog, and he wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
According to statistics, US insurance companies collectively paid more than $483 million for 17,369 dog bite claims in 2013. Other research by the Insurance Information Institute revealed that dog bites comprised more than one-third of all 2013 home owner liability claims. This is an average of about $27,800 per claim. The study also revealed that California had the most dog bite claims in 2013, totaling $64.7 million for 1,919 claims.
Pet injury claims are not limited to dog bites. “Non-bite injuries” can include scratching, tripping, knocking over or even frightening a person. These types of claims are not as costly as dog bites. Dog bites can injure an individual greatly and can even require expensive reconstructive surgery.
These issues have plagued homeowners in California for years. Since the 2000s, many insurers began limiting breed coverage. State Department of Insurance spokeswoman Nancy Kincaid stated that all pet owners should “check with their insurer before they buy or adopt a dog to see if it’s covered.” She also noted that homeowners should never lie about their pet either. A homeowner insurance policy will ask specific questions like what type of breed your dog is. If you lie and your dog bites someone, your insurance company will not cover it. This is also technically insurance fraud, which is a serious crime.
If you are not pleased with a specific carrier’s breed policy, keep looking. Some insurance carriers, like State Farm, claim that any breed of dog can bite. State Farm agent Stephanie Bader stated that “We get multiple calls every week from people who’ve been denied or can’t get insurance” because they own a pit bull or other “risky” breed. State Farm is part of an effort to educate clients about being responsible for their pets. During National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which State Farm co-sponsors, the public is educated on canine behavior, including what to look for to identify an aggressive dog, how to protect children around dogs and even how to get yourself out of a risky situation that could lead to an attack.
Those who own a dog understand that it is part of their family. However, they must take responsibility for their dog, especially those who own “risky” breeds. If you have run into a situation where your insurance company is refusing to cover an incident with your dog, you should speak with an attorney. Insurance companies will often attempt to not pay claims as they are focused on increasing their own profits. If your insurance company attempts to deny your claim because of your dog’s breed, speak with an attorney to determine your options and next step.