Bringing a new animal home is both exciting and adventurous. But with fluffy coats and puppy eyes comes a whole lot of responsibility. Responsibility that starts with notifying your homeowners (or renters) insurance carrier of your new animal’s arrival. Here’s why this is important.
Bark, Just the Facts, Bark
According to 2012 statistics, provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), over 43 million households in the United States have at least one dog. The average, however, is 1.6 dogs per household bringing the total number of dogs owned to almost 70 million. 2015-16 estimates by the Humane Society bring those numbers to 54.4 and 77.8 million respectively.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.5 million dog bites occur each year in the United States. Only 1 out of 5 bites become infected. These dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute, accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claim payouts in 2015. The average cost per claim exceeded $37,000.
In Arizona, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries their pets cause, and liability is imposed without regard to an owner’s knowledge of the dog’s aggressiveness. The only defense to liability according to Arizona State Legislature is that the injured party provoked the dog. Proof of the incident is required. This, unfortunately, often leads to a “he said/she said” situation.
Are You Covered?
The aforementioned facts make informing your independent insurance agent of your new companion highly important. It is also advisable that you review your liability coverage to ensure you are adequately covered in the event Fido injuries someone (review should be done annually regardless of the occurrence of any changes).
Insurance carriers can unfortunately elect to exclude your dog from coverage in the event it is what some call a “blacklisted” dog. They may also raise your premiums. Fourteen of the most often blacklisted dogs, according to a 2014 article from Psychology Today, are:
- Pit Bull Terriers
- Staffordshire Terriers
- German Shepherds
- Presa Canarios
- Doberman Pinschers
- Cane Corsos
- Great Danes
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Siberian Huskies
Dog Owners: Dog Bite Prevention
- Educate yourself about the dog breed. Plenty of good resources exist including: The American Kennel Club (AKC), dogbreedinfo.com, and Pet MD.
- Spay or neuter your dog. Healthy puppies can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks of age. Spayed or neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.
- Socialize Your Dog: It’s important for puppies to meet a number of other dogs, people, and places within their first few months of life.
- Train Your Dog: Begin taking your dog to positive reinforcement training, or reward-based training, shortly after Fido’s first set of vaccinations.
- Avoid Stressful Situations: Thinking of taking your pet to Fourth of July festivities. You may want to rethink that. Fireworks and other loud noises are often far too stressful on a dog.
- Be a responsible dog owner – period! This vaccinating and licensing your dog. Treat your dog as one of the family and avoid leaving him/her alone for long periods of time. You should also refrain from keeping him/her locked outside the house or restrained. Teach your children that your dog is NOT a toy and should be gently petted only.