Dog Bite Prevention

Posted on April 12, 2022 at 03:21 PM

Dog bite related claims in U.S. rise again

Insurers encourage proper training and care of pets to avoid tragic injuries

What to Know

    • In 2021, I.I.I. reports that homeowner insurers paid out more than $881 million as a result of 17,989 dog bite claims.
    • Most – but not all - insurance companies insure homeowners and renters who own dogs.  Some companies exclude certain breeds from coverage, while many focus on the individual dog’s behavior. 

    For so many of us our dogs are family, and millions of times each day people and dogs interact happily without any negative consequences. But dog bites do happen. Most of the time, dog bites can be prevented through education and responsible ownerships.

    April 10-16 is Dog Bite Prevention Week and insurers are encouraging dog owners to train and care for their pets properly to avoid tragic injuries and costly dog bite claims.

    In U.S. households, an estimated 85 million dogs are owned as pets and, in most cases, considered to be “part of the family.” But dogs in your care can also be a source of liability for pet owners if they injure people or other pets.

    The overall number of dog bite (and related injury) claims increased by 2.2 percent in 2021. Insurers nationwide paid $881 million in claims as a result of 17,989 dog bite claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.). The average cost paid per dog bite claim was $49,025 in 2021, a slight decrease from $50,245 in 2020.

    More than 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, children are the most common victims of dog bites with most incidents occurring during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.

    Homeowners and Renters insurance policies typically include coverage for dog bite liability, which means that if a pet you own injures another person or pet and they suffer an injury and/or seek damages, your insurance will help pay the cost of your defense and pay damages up to the limits of the policy.  Most Homeowners policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage, but that figure is much lower for Renters insurance.  If the claim exceeds the limit of a policy, the dog owner is responsible for any damages above that amount, including legal expenses.

    Companies also offer Umbrella Insurance policies, which provide additional liability coverage above the limits included in a standard home or renter policy, for an additional premium.

    It’s also important to contact your insurance agent to find out if your company insures your dog’s breed.

    Most – but not all - insurance companies insure homeowners and renters who own dogs.  Some companies exclude certain breeds from coverage, while many focus on the individual dog’s behavior.  That means, if your dog bites someone or attacks a pet from outside your household, most insurance companies are likely to recognize your dog as an increased risk.  Your insurance company then may charge a higher premium, non-renew your Homeowners or Renters insurance policy or exclude your dog from liability coverage.

    Now that COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions are easing and people are returning to work and activities outside the home, pets being left alone could experience separation anxiety, which could cause behavioral problems that lead to more dog bites.

    NW Insurance Council and I.I.I. offer these tips to help reduce the risk of your dog biting someone:

    • Dog bite liability laws and breed-specific statutes vary by state and municipalities. As a dog owner, it is important to know your state and local laws as well as your insurance coverage.
    • Spay or neuter your dog.  Studies show that dogs are three times less likely to bite if they have been neutered.
    • Socialize your dog so that it becomes more comfortable around people and other animals, especially if your pet has only been interacting with you and family members during quarantine. Take it slow and don’t rush your dog into crowded areas or dog parks. Also, always leash your dog in public so you are better able to maintain control.
    • Teach your kids the basics of dog safety. Discourage children from disturbing a dog that is eating or sleeping, for example, and always supervise children when they are around dogs.
    • Play non-aggressive games such as fetch.  Playing aggressive games like tug-of-war can encourage inappropriate behavior from your dog.
    • Always ask an owner for permission before petting their dog, and make sure your children do the same before petting an unfamiliar dog.
    • Do not approach a strange dog and avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.

    For more information about insurance, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942.

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