Farmers Insurance unleashes dog-breed ban

By , Posted on 21 February 2013

homeowner liability insurance and dogsFarmers Insurance is dropping home insurance liability coverage for dog-bite claims involving pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf-dog hybrid animals.

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The insurance company is not cancelling policies, but is now requiring its customers who own these types of breeds to sign exclusion coverage waivers, and policies won't be renewed without signed waivers, according to a KCRA.com report.

I can't say that I'm surprised, since learning last year that dog-bite claims comprise more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims. This cost insurers about $479 million in 2011, up 16 percent from the previous year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). The average cost of a dog-bite insurance claim was $29,396 in 2011, according to III. (See: "Man's best friend, your insurers worst enemy.")

The move by Famers is not unusual, as insurance companies have different ways of handling liability coverage for dogs. Like Farmers, some have a list of breeds they will not cover and require you to sign a waiver making you personally responsible for any medical bills or lawsuits stemming from your dog's actions. (In Michigan and Pennsylvania, it's illegal for home insurers to deny coverage simply because a home has a dog of a particular breed, according to III.)

Other insurers will ask you questions about your dog's history and will consider coverage on a case-by-case basis. State Farm appears to be dog-friendly and is one example. Though State Farm paid more than $109 million as a result of nearly 3,800 dog-bite claims in 2011, the company does not refuse insurance based on the breed of dog a customer owns.

"A dog's tendency to bite depends on such factors as heredity, obedience training, socialization, health, and the victim's behavior. There are good dogs and bad dogs within every breed, just as there can be responsible and irresponsible owners of each breed," says the company website. (See: "The $30,000 dog: How a biting pooch costs you.")

Top 10 States for State Farm Dog Bite Claims in 2011

State

Number of claims

Claims paid (estimated)

California

527

$20.3 million

Illinois

309

$10.0 million

Texas

219

$5.1 million

Ohio

215

$5.4 million

Pennsylvania

197

$4.9 million

Michigan

181

$7.0 million

Florida

157

$5.1 million

Indiana

139

$3.5 million

New York

133

$6.1 million

Minnesota

117

$3.5 million

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Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

dtoups@quinstreet.com

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.

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