Dogs & Homeowner Policies in MA

According to the Insurance Information Institute 46.3 million American households own a dog as of 2012. If your household is one of the 46.3 million you may already know how owning a dog can affect your homeowners insurance.

Unfortunately, on occasion dogs do bite people. Dog bites are protected under the Personal Liability coverage (unless specifically excluded by endorsement), with most insurance companies providing at least $100,000 and up to $1,000,000 coverage. This may seem like a lot of coverage for a dog bite, however, “Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2011, costing nearly $479 million”. It is because of the huge amount of money spent insuring dog bites that most insurance companies have strict rules when it comes to dogs.

Most insurance companies have a written policy in which they will not insure a home where there is a dog that has a history of biting, attacking, or any other kind of aggressive behavior. In addition, there are certain breeds of dogs that most companies consider high risk. The most common breeds that tend to be regarded as high risk are listed below.

  • Pit Bull Terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • Wolf dog
  • Coyote dog
  • Any mixed breed containing one of these breeds

Some insurance companies also require an underwriter’s approval for certain dogs, that have higher than average loss experience. Some of the dogs that may require approval are listed below.

  • Boxer
  • Bulldog
  • Dalmatian
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Great Dane
  • Husky (all types)
  • Shepherds (all types)
  • Any mixed breed containing one of these breeds

The lists above are examples. Not all of the breeds listed will be on every company’s “watch list”. Likewise, not every breed that appears on a particular company’s list is mentioned above. When you are talking with your agent he or she will attempt to match you with a company that fits your needs, including your breed of dog.

When applying for homeowners insurance you will be asked whether you have any pets. Answering “No” when you do in fact own a dog, especially if listed on the “Not Allowed” or “Needs Underwriter Approval” guidelines may lead to the company cancelling your policy for material misrepresentation. Answering “Yes” may result in more paperwork or higher premiums, but at least, you will know that you have coverage when needed.

Remember, Massachusetts is a strict liability state, meaning the owner is considered liable for dog bites unless the victim was trespassing, teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog, or was committing another offense. If a child under the age of 7 is bitten, the child is presumed not responsible.

Here at Columbia Insurance Agency, we work with companies that will write homeowners policies for dog owners. If you own a dog and have any questions regarding your homeowners policy or would like to know more about how the companies we represent treat dogs please don’t hesitate to call us at 781-598-5000 or email us.