Home insurance and dog liabilityAs a Realtor since 2004 and a dog lover since long before that, I often warn my first-time home buyers that their beloved pooch might actually stand in the way of them getting their new home insured. Why? Well, many insurance companies will simply not insure your dog if it's a certain breed.

To provide us some clarity on this subject, I asked my friend and colleague Steve Palenscar, owner/agent of Foley & Palenscar Insurance Agency (www.foleyins.com), to fill us in on the topic.

"Did you know dogs account for over $500 million in insurance liability claims every year in the United States? In addition to dog bites, dogs collide with people causing falls and injuries. As a dog owner, you are strictly liable for your dog’s actions and homeowners liability will often cover claims. 

"To manage the exposure dog ownership presents, insurance companies limit eligibility to certain breeds.  Most companies have a list of dogs they will not insure, often including Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, certain terrier breeds and wolf hybrids. If you have one of these dogs a company may not insure you at all (as opposed to insuring you and excluding the dog). Interestingly, most claims result from the most common dog breeds, the Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever, however, the most severe claims result from the dog breeds previously mentioned (among others). 

"It is imperative that you disclose your dog, dog breed and any past bite history to your insurer to make sure you are covered for liability purposes. If you have one of the ineligible dog breeds you can still insure at a higher premium with a separate company. 

"Companies apply the dog eligibility rules to owner-occupied properties as well as rental properties. Landlords who allow dogs should require tenants to maintain a renter's policy with at least $300k liability and require proof of insurance annually."

Bottom line? If you're a house hunter and thinking of adopting a dog, check in with your insurance agent first since the type of dog you want to bring home may actually impede your chances of getting home insurance. For more information on dogs and home insurance, I invite you to check out "Spotlight on Dog Liability."