Dogs are great, but the sad truth is that they can also be a liability. We love them to pieces, but they are still animals – with sharp, pointy teeth – that can cause damage. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a dog, but it does mean that you should take some steps to protect yourself, your property and your finances in case something bad happens.
What Happens When Dogs Bite
If your pet bites and the damage requires medical attention, you can be at risk for criminal charges and/or lawsuits. Your dog will likely end up on your local community’s dangerous dog list and your address could become public information. Additionally, you would likely be held responsible for paying medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Dog bites which result in injuries that require medical attention are rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 4.7 million people get bitten by dogs every year, but fewer than 1 in 5 dog bites result in serious injuries. With 80 million dogs in the United States, that means just about 1% of dogs ever cause a problem.
How Homeowners Insurance Protects Dog Owners
If you’re in that 1%, though, you don’t want to be caught without appropriate insurance coverage. Dog bites account for approximately one-third of all insurance claims and average payout is about $30,000 per case. Most homeowners’ insurance or renters insurance policies cover your liability if your dog bites. The policy will pay for damages and more if someone is injured by your dog.
When buying homeowner’s insurance or switching to a new policy, learn about the company’s policies regarding dogs, as not all will treat you and your dog the same. Some companies won’t insure households with certain breeds of dog, such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans and German shepherds. These so-called “dangerous dog lists” can vary from company to company, though, so if you shop around, you can likely find a policy to suit you (and your dog).
Take Control with Responsible Dog Ownership
Whether your pet is a type that could be found on a dangerous dog list or not, there are things you can do to reduce the chances your dog will bite. Though it’s impossible to eliminate the risk, being a good pet caretaker goes a long way towards diminishing the risks. Here are some tips for old-fashioned responsible dog ownership.
- Keep your dog under control by utilizing a collar and leash in public and having a fence or dog run on your property.
- Have your dog spayed or neutered to neutralize hormone-related aggression.
- Train your dog to respond to your commands and to behave well around people.
- Socialize them with people and other pets so they are less likely to react fearfully when meeting strangers or strange animals.
- Children under the age of 12 should have all interactions with dogs supervised by adults.
- Familiarize yourself with triggers for aggression, such as pain, illness, loud noises, unfamiliar places, crowds, and more.
- Consult a professional if your dog shows any signs of aggression.
We know they’re your friend or sometimes can feel like part of the family, but they are still animals and even the most well-behaved dog can have a bad day. In truth, dog bites are incredibly rare – you’re more likely to be injured in a fall or by a car. As we pointed out earlier, though, you don’t want to be in that 1% if you’re not covered by an appropriate insurance policy. Keep your dog or get one if you’re thinking about it – just also be sure to purchase an insurance policy that covers what you need.