Homeowner insurance premiums probably will take a bigger bite out of your wallet if you own a pit bull or other breeds of dog that are known to be aggressive. That's the word from insurance experts such as Eric Goldberg, assistant general counsel for the American Insurance Association, in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Robert Hartwig, chief economist of the Insurance Information Institute (III), in New York.
Says Goldberg: "Insurers compile all kinds of data on potential loss, including statistics on the various breeds of dogs that cause bodily injury by biting people. Chances are you'll pay more for homeowners insurance if you own a pit bull or other type of dog that's widely recognized as aggressive and known to bite people."
Matter of fact, the insurer might decide to non-renew your policy if you own a pit bull, warns Goldberg. The bottom line from Goldberg's perspective? "If you are a dog lover and you are concerned about how much you pay for homeowners insurance, don't buy a dog that is known to bite," explains Goldberg.
To help keep down your homeowner insurance premium, a responsible dog owner should have his or her dog spayed/neutered and have the family pet undergo obedience training at, say, the local humane society. "The insurer might take these matters into consideration, depending on various factors such as the breed of dog and whether it has a history of aggressive behavior," explains Goldberg. "Check with your homeowner insurer about that."
III's Bob Hartwig notes that with certain dog breeds, "you might find homeowners insurance either difficult to get or more expensive. This will be particularly so if your particular dog, regardless of breed, has a history of vicious behavior such as biting a neighbor's child or a visitor to your home."
Dog bite statistics support Hartwig's position. Insurers pay out over $300 million in dog bite liability claims annually, says Hartwig. "Aside from trip and falls," Hartwig says, "dog bites are right up there at the top among homeowners liability claims." Hartwig advises dog owners "to make sure that their dogs are tame, obedient and well-trained, regardless of breed."
Hartwig warns that dogs should not be allowed to run loose around the neighborhood or kept in an unfenced yard, and he cited an example to drive home his point. "You're going to be held legally liable if a child, walking by your house, pets your dog and gets bitten," says Hartwig. "A dog would be considered an 'attractive nuisance,' for which you'll be unable to pin the blame on someone else such as by suggesting that the neighbor's child was teasing your dog."
Insurance trade group spokeswoman Lynn Knauf cites what she describes as "one of the saddest stories that show the potential for harm of certain breeds of dogs." The tragic set of circumstances Knauf was referring to took place in Northern California a few years back. The case centered on 33-year-old San Franciscan Diane Whipple. Whipple was mauled to death by two Presa Canarios, a breed of dog that is frequently bred for protecting property and fighting.
Each year, there are a disturbing number of fatal attacks and horrible injuries caused by certain breeds of dogs," says Knauf, director of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, in Des Plaines, Ill.
Certain breeds can bite with a force averaging 1,000 pounds per square inch, says Knauf, "while others can bite with twice that force, enough to seriously injure a child or adult in seconds. These fierce and often unprovoked dog attacks are reason enough for some homeowners insurance companies to include such information in risk assessment decisions."
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