Dogs and Your Personal Liability Coverage

We get a lot of questions regarding pets and insurance. Most of these questions are about dog breeds and whether a basic homeowner's insurance will cover the owners if their dog bites someone.

If you aren't aware of this, homeowners insurance is both insurance of your home and property, as well as liability insurance. It's the liability component that comes into play when your dog bites.

Now, if you already have a dog, you need to know if your insurance will cover you. If you are considering a dog, you don't want to be caught without insurance should the unthinkable happen. Either way, be sure to take the following steps:

1. Check to see if the breed you want is restricted or banned in your municipality or state. If so, you are likely looking at a dangerous breed, and your insurance company is not going to cover that animal. It's that simple.

2. Even if the breed you want isn't banned, it may still be considered high-risk by your insurance company. I've seen policies that wouldn't insure a German Shepherd, and I've never thought of them as a "dangerous" breed. Your best bet is always to check with your insurer to find out what breeds it considers dangerous. The most common ones are the pit bull type dogs, Rottweilers and Dobermans, but don't be surprised if other breeds are also considered high risk.

3. If your animal is considered high risk, you may still be able to get insurance, but you can expect it to cost you more. Once you raise the risk to the insurer, it always raises the price to you. Some insurers will have special endorsements for certain breeds.

4. What do you do if you have your heart set on a particular breed of animal and are having problems getting insurance? If you find that you can't get insurance as a "pet" owner, you may be able to get insurance if you apply for a higher-priced coverage, such as the kind of coverage that a breeder or kennel owner might have. Again, be prepared for some sticker shock! However, it might get you insurance which you otherwise wouldn't be able to get.

If you have a pet, always be sure that you have liability that will cover that pet's actions. Even the most docile of breeds can sometimes surprise you.

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