Home insurance for dog owners

Liability against dog bite

Dogs by nature are friendly and are a part of the loving members of the family. But even the apparently normal, docile dogs are tempted to bite when they are frightened, or when guarding the properties, puppies or food. A study says that more than 50 per cent of the dog bites occur on the dog owner's property and they constitute approximately one third of all home owners insurance liability claims.

Liability of the dog owner

The dog owner is liable for any damage or injury caused by his / her pet in the following instances; if the owner knew that the dog had a tendency to inflict an injury on others or due to careless behavior of the owner. If the state laws imply that the owner will be held responsible for the damage caused by the dog, then there is no question of the careless behavior of the owner or the rogue tendency of the animal.

There are three state laws that impose liability on dog owners. They are

1. Dog bite statute

The dog owner automatically stands liable for any damage to the property or injury to the individual caused by the dog even without provocation.

2. One bite rule

Some of the states' laws confer immunity for the first bite. i.e. liability can't be claimed against the owner for the first bite inflicted by the animal on any individual whereas second bite counts. But recently, more states have moved away from the one bite rule and the owner of the dog can be held responsible and damages can be claimed against the owner for the vicious behavior or biting by the animal.

3. Law of negligence

The dog owner is liable if he / she is unreasonably careless in controlling the dog resulting in injury or damage to the property.

However, most of the state laws make the owner immune against liability from injury inflicted by the dog, if the individual happens to be a trespasser. If the dog owner is liable, then he / she is also responsible for reimbursing the injured person for medical bills, pain and suffering, property damage and lost wages.

Most of the homeowners and renters insurance policies by default typically cover the dog bite liability with coverage varying between $100,000 and $300,000. If the claim exceeds this level, then the dog owner has to pay from his pocket including the legal expenses.

Most of the homeowners' policy covers other pets including dog. However, if the dog bites someone, then it poses increased risk and hence there will be a higher premium for dog owner liability, else liability for dog will be excluded from the coverage. Some insurance companies may provide coverage if the owner agrees to send the dog for some training aimed at modifying its behavior.

How to be a responsible dog owner?

When it comes to training and restraining the dog is concerned, the owner is solely responsible. Poor training and breeding practices, irresponsible ownership foster viciousness in dogs or even may cause neglect and abuse resulting in development of the most dangerous dogs.

How to avoid being bitten by dog?

Think twice and check whether you really want a dog and if so, the purpose the dog is going to serve in your home. Meet and discuss with a professional like a veterinarian, animal behaviorist to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household and locality.

  • Aggressive dogs are not suitable for homes with infant, toddler or children and hence it is advisable to spend some quality time with the dog before taking it home.

  • Be sensitive to the reactions of the family members towards the new dog. If the child is afraid of the dog, delay acquiring one and ensure that infants or children are not left alone in the company of dogs.

  • It is better to have your dog spayed or neutered to have a better control over it. A male dog is three times more likely to bite if it is not neutered.

  • Just like human beings, dogs too have to be socialized. It teaches them how to act or react in the presence of other people or animals.

  • A dog that eats or sleeps should be left undisturbed, especially by the children.

  • Teaching your dog to be obedient, playing games like “go fetch” will improve their attitude while aggressive games like “tug-of -war” will foster inappropriate behavior.

  • Never expose your dog, especially when it is newly acquired, to new environments in which you are unsure of its response.

  • It is better not to approach a strange dog and try to avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.

  • If the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behavior, go away from it as soon as possible and immediately seek professional advice from veterinarians or animal behaviorists.