What Insurance Customers Must Know Before Getting A Dog

You hear the horror stories almost every week about how a beloved family pet went ballistic and attacked a person, either killing them or causing great bodily harm. In fact, just this week Claims Journal reported a case out of DeKalb County, Georgia, in which a family won $36.6 million for damages sustained to their 8-year-old daughter from a dog attack.

County Solicitor’s Spokeswoman Terrie Clark said in a statement Tuesday a jury had awarded the family of Erin Ingram $72 million in a litigation against Twyann Vaughn of Lithonia. Attorney Kevin Adamson said the judge “capped punitive damages at $250,000, reducing the award to roughly $36.6 million,” the news site stated.

Clark said Ingram was “attacked by Vaughn’s dogs and her left arm had to be partially amputated, among other injuries.”

“Vaughn was found guilty in January 2012 of reckless conduct, violation of the county’s vicious dog ordinance, and failure to have the dogs immunized for rabies. She was sentenced to 16 months in jail,” the site concludes.

From this case alone, your insurance customers should be able to see the apprehension many companies have when it comes to insuring a potentially dangerous animal. After all, as Psychology Today points out in an article on the deadliest dog breeds, insurance companies have to look at it from a risk management perspective. While some states have laws against banning coverage to animals from insurance coverage unless a previous pattern of violent behavior has been established, for the underwriting companies, “by the time the dog has bitten someone, and has therefore been deemed dangerous, there has already been a claim filed.” This means that “it’s already too late for the insurance company since they will have to cover the claim under the pre-existing unrestricted policy.”

This is why many specific breeds are routinely banned by insurance companies where the law allows. Among these “banned breeds,” these are the 14 most common.

  • Pit Bull Terriers
  • Staffordshire Terriers
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Presa Canarios
  • Chows Chows
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Akitas
  • Wolf-hybrids
  • Mastiffs
  • Cane Corsos
  • Great Danes
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Siberian Huskies

All this being said, what should insurance customers know before deciding on a family pet?


Insurance Law

Currently, Michigan and Pennsylvania ban laws denying coverage based on the breed of an animal. There are 10 other states with pending legislation, Psychology Today notes. That means in 38 states, insurance companies have the freedom to place bans on breeds that might be deemed overtly dangerous. While all of the breeds listed above may not meet that criteria, it’s almost a given that pit bull terriers will be on the list as well as a few others.


Safety Laws, Recommendations, And Challenges That Come With Owning The Pet

Where the law does not allow the banning of dog breeds or other pets, there are still stipulations and challenges that a pet owner may have to face. For starters, a dog like a pit bull terrier may mean much higher premiums, and if the dog does have an individual history of aggressiveness that can be traced, then it’s within the company’s right to deny or revoke coverage. Therefore, it’s not only important for the customer to know their state’s insurance laws regarding this topic, they should also be demonstrating a clear desire to follow the safety procedures and recommendations when it comes to allowing that animal around children and others.


In Summary

Pets can bring great joy to the lives of a family, but many still have a touch of wild animal in them, and that can mean trouble under a specific set of circumstances. If your insurance leads or customers are thinking of buying a pet, make sure they know your company’s policy with regard to insurability.

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