Disclose the Dog

Disclose the Dog

There often is much difference between your family members and your beloved pooch—besides a little fur here and there. But while your four-legged friend guards your home and offer undying loyalty, homeowner’s must be practical. One bite to a neighbor, friend, or mailman could send your wallet into a death spiral. While you may be covered by homeowners insurance  did you remember or “creatively forget” about disclosing this furry member of your family to your insurance agent?

In this article, we’ll take a look at some statistics and why disclosing your dog is important for insurance. Perhaps a little barking will show you how much the bite can be!

Dog Bite Facts


  • According to the ASPCA, up to 47% of American households own a dog.
  • Dog bites (and injuries related to dogs) in the U.S. accounted for more than a third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2014, costing approximately $530 million.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 4.7 million dog-bite incidents occur in the United States every year. Of those 4.7 million attacks, 800,000 seek medical attention, with 386,000 needing emergency medical treatment. Half of these incidents involve children.
  • In 2014, the Insurance Information Institute analyzed nationwide data from homeowners liability claims and found that, while dog bite claims decreased 4.7% from 2013, the average cost per claim was up 15%. The average payout for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 in 2014, compared with $27,862 in 2013.


Why You Should Disclose If You Have a Dog


Not disclosing that you own a dog can bite you in the wallet down the road. Most insurers have dog exclusions and can deny your claim with unrelated issues or deny a dog bite claim. Worse, if you’re found to own a pet without disclosing, your entire policy can be voided.


Owning a dog may make it difficult to find insurance in the first place. Companies do discriminate based on problem breeds (pitbulls, rottweillers, Doberman pinschers), and you may be denied outright for owning these breeds. Then again, not all insurers discriminate against all breeds, opting to judge on the animal’s history and disposition towards aggressive behavior.


How Your Dog Affects Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

Be sure to read your policy’s specific coverage for dog-related incidents. Not all insurers provide adequate coverage. Under dog-bite statutes by state, owners are liable for all injuries or property damage caused by the animal. Negligence laws also make owners liable when a person is hurt as a result of the owner’s carelessness to control their dog.

If you are held responsible for your dog’s behavior, you could be responsible for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damage to property

It should be noted that some U.S. states provide an initial break commonly known as the “one-bite” rule, where an owner cannot be held liable until the animal’s “vicious propensity” has been established. This is usually determined by a bite, but may result from scratches and other dog-related harm.

Also, it is extremely important to note that those who rent their home should realize that renter’s insurance  is absolutely necessary to prevent financial ruin from dog bites. Landlords are not held responsible.


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Dogs and insurance can be a confusing topic for anyone who is trying to DIY their own policies. There’s simply too many variables to know if your dog is recognized by your insurer. That’s why we recommend that you speak to a RiskBlock advisor to help you find the insurance company that fits your family’s needs.


Author: Liam Dai
Lead Insurance Advisor for RiskBlock. Disclaimer: This Blog/Web Site is made available by the author or insurance agency for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the insurance coverage, not to provide specific insurance advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no professional advice and professional client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for professional advice from a licensed professional insurance agent in your state. All scenarios are different and unique to the situation.