- Some home insurance companies ban certain dog breeds, which means there is no liability coverage if your dog injures someone or destroys their property.
- Doberman Pinschers, pit bulls and Rottweilers are the most common dog breeds banned by homeowners insurance companies.
- Consider shopping around for insurance companies without breed restrictions or buying a canine liability or umbrella insurance policy if you own a restricted breed.
Certain insurance companies may raise your home insurance rates, or limit or exclude coverage in your policy, if you own a specific dog breed. Owning a banned dog breed could mean your home insurance company will deny a claim if your dog bites or injures someone, leaving you to pay the entire cost of injuries and legal fees.
The average cost of a dog bite claim in 2021 was $49,025, according to the Insurance Information Institute. When insurance companies review dog liability claims, certain breeds show up more often than others. Knowing what homeowners insurance companies ban dog breeds may help you decide which carrier to use and what to do if you own a banned dog breed.
Dog breeds most often banned by homeowners insurance companies
Insurance companies are not always open about the breeds they ban, making it harder for homeowners to decide which company to choose. We analyzed more than 40 home insurance companies across the country to find the most common banned dog breeds.
The top 12 banned dog breeds most often banned by homeowners insurance companies are:
- Doberman Pinscher
- Pit bull
- Chow Chow
- Wolf dogs and hybrids
- Presa Canario (canary dog)
- German Shepherd
- Alaskan Malamute
Pit bull is a term used to encompass several Bull Terrier breeds and mixes of these breeds. American Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers all fall under the pit bull umbrella.
Why do some insurance companies deny certain breeds?
The simple answer to why some insurance companies deny certain breeds is risk exposure. In 2021, there were 17,989 dog bite liability claims filed resulting in more than $882 million paid by home insurance carriers, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
“These breeds are responsible for a high number of dog bite claims and insurance companies want to minimize paying expensive claims,” states Elissa Weimer-Sentner, professional dog trainer and owner of Paw & Order Dog Training. It’s like an insurance company requiring a self-latching gate if you own a swimming pool. The more risk mitigation factors you provide, the less risk exposure you and your insurer have.
While some companies may focus more on each individual dog’s temperament and history, many go with blanket bans on the breeds most likely to bite. Blanket breed bans leave no option for professionally trained assistance, search and rescue or therapy dogs that fall under these breed types, advises information website PetPlace.
Is dog breed discrimination legal?
Yes, dog breed discrimination is legal in most states. However, in a few states, legislation has been passed to limit or eliminate breed discrimination by home insurance companies. Some states may not allow breed discrimination but have other requirements, like a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage you’ll need if you own a specific dog breed.
States with limitations to breed discrimination or no breed discrimination include:
- New York
Not only can insurance companies use breed-specific legislation (BSL), but local cities and counties can also ban certain dog breeds. For instance, if you live in Prince George’s County, Maryland, it is against the law to own a pit bull. Even if you have homeowners insurance through a company that doesn’t ban dog breeds, your liability claim may be denied if you are held legally responsible for owning a banned breed in your area.
The consequences of dog breed bans
“Breed bans often force dog owners to surrender their pets to animal shelters that are already overcrowded,” warns Tom Bohne, founder of pit bull advocacy group Kennel to Couch. Shelter life can not only affect their temperament but also build anxiety and other negative behaviors. It can make it more difficult for banned dogs to be adopted, especially when insurance companies and BSL make it harder for them to find loving homes with good owners willing to put in the work to train and exercise them properly.
Banning a breed can also encourage irresponsible dog ownership, says Weimer-Sentner. Owners may avoid seeking veterinary care, neglect their dogs’ health and avoid outside activities, limiting their socialization. It can also lead to fewer dogs being microchipped and spayed or neutered, all to avoid detection.
“Rather than considering a dog’s breed or size when it comes to insurance coverage, insurers should look at the individual dog and consider its history, upbringing and temperament,” Bohne advises. Just like people, every dog has its own personality, agrees Weimer-Sentner.
When are dogs not covered by homeowners insurance?
Breed bans are not the only thing that can cause a dog to not be covered by homeowners insurance. A home insurance policy may not cover a dog of any breed if it has a history of property damage or biting.
If your dog has a bite history, your insurance company may require you to sign a liability waiver before issuing a homeowners policy. The insurer could exclude the dog from liability coverage, which means if you file a claim for legal or medical bills relating to your dog biting, it won’t be covered. Owning a dog with a bite history could also cause an insurance company to deny coverage or not renew your policy.
If your dog bites you or someone in your household, regardless of its breed, your homeowners insurance will not cover your medical bills. Personal liability coverage under a home policy only covers injuries or damage to others, not household members.
Your homeowners insurance also won’t cover a claim if your dog damages your home, belongings or other structures on your property. That means if your dog destroys all the clothes in your closet or chews your drywall or carpets, you won’t get reimbursed to repair the damage or replace your belongings.
Your insurance company may also not cover damage your dog causes to someone else’s property if the dog is on the insurer’s banned breed list.
What do I do if my insurer won’t cover my dog?
If your insurer won’t cover your dog, you have a few options. Asking about exceptions, shopping around and considering alternate insurance are good places to start.
Ask about exceptions
Although some insurance companies ban dog breeds without exception, others may assess individual dogs on a case-by-case basis. Ask the insurer if you can provide documentation that proves your dog’s temperament. This could be the dog’s foster parents, your neighbors or your veterinarian, says Bohne.
“Your insurance company may require you to get training or have a certain kind of yard or fence for your dog” before agreeing to cover your dog’s liability, says Weimer-Sentner. If your pet is certified as a therapy or service dog, let your insurance company know. Completing these programs is a sign that your dog can be controlled in many situations and is less prone to bite or cause damage.
Not all home insurance companies ban dog breeds. Shopping around can help you find an insurer that doesn’t ban your dog’s breed or has pet restrictions. Be up front that you have a dog and ask if there are any reasons the company would exclude them from coverage.
The insurance company might charge you a higher premium because of your dog’s breed, warns Weimer-Sentner. Shopping around can help determine which insurer is best for your needs and budget.