Solving the Insurance Crisis Facing Dog Owners

Overview

Without a doubt, dog owners need insurance that will protect them from injuries caused by their dogs. The trend to reduce the availability of canine liability insurance is the biggest issue facing dog owners — far more important than the threat of breed bans. Insurance for canine inflicted injuries must be made available and affordable to all owners of dogs.

Consider the statistics and you will know why: of the 800,000 annual dog bites that require medical attention in the USA, more than half of the victims are children, and more than half of the child-victims are bitten on the face. The medical costs and other losses stemming from a bite to the face ranges from the tens of thousands of dollars to the hundreds of thousands. Imagine the effect of a $100,000 judgment upon a homeowner: he literally could lose his house. That is why homeowners insurance without protection against dog bites is an illusion. Your house is not fully covered, because with one snap of your dog’s jaws, you can lose it — unless your policy protects you.

Here are the 7 most important provisions we need to see:

 

  • Coverage for canine-inflicted injuries should be offered as part of every policy of homeowner and renter insurance.
  • People who do not own dogs should not have to pay for this coverage.
  • The owners of big dogs should be required to pay higher premiums than the owners of small dogs, because of the greater losses caused by bigger, more powerful dogs.
  • People who own more than one dog should pay more than people who own fewer dogs.
  • The owners of dogs having a history of dangerousness should pay more than the owners of “good” dogs.
  • All dog owners should be required to carry liability insurance.
  • Landlords should be prohibited from renting to uninsured dog owners; for violating this prohibition, the landlord should be automatically liable for injuries inflicted by an uninsured tenant’s dogs.

 

Discussion

Look at the statistics: the insurance industry compensates only 16,000 dog bite victims every year despite the fact that at least 800,000 victims are hurt badly enough that they need to see a doctor or go to the hospital. In many cases, the inequitable distribution of the loss is the result of ignorance; the victims are dog lovers and friends, neighbors or family members of the owner of the attacking dog, and in many cases do not seek compensation because of unwarranted fear of “hurting” the dog or its owner. Those fears are unfounded when the case is handled by an attorney with experience in dog bite cases, and the dog owner has insurance. The victims who do seek compensation often do not receive it because the dog owners don’t have the insurance, have homeowners insurance or renters insurance that limits the dollar amount of coverage for dog bites or excludes coverage entirely.

 

Because the losses should fall upon the owners of the dogs and not the victims, insurance companies should be required to cover all dog attacks and to offer coverage at a reasonable cost that is affordable to most people. Additionally, dog owners should be required to have the coverage, especially the owners of high-risk dog. Additionally, there should be automatic liability on the dog owner’s part when a dog injures a person, and landlords who allow dogs but do not require proof of insurance should be automatically liable when an uninsured tenant’s dog injures a person.

 

One should not have to pay for this coverage if he does not own a dog. People who do not own dogs should not have to pay for the damage that is done by dogs; conversely, dog owners should be legally required to have this insurance.

The owners of 5-pound dogs and other small dogs should not have to pay the same amount as the owners of dogs that are big, strong, and capable of being dangerous. There are distinctions among the types of dogs, in that small dogs with small teeth generally are incapable of inflicting the same degree of damage that can be done by big dogs with big teeth. Therefore the cost of this insurance should be more or less “by the pound,” meaning the size of the dog.

Those who own one dog should pay less than those who own two, three, four or more. The more dogs you own, the more you should have to pay. It works that way for cars too. And there is an additional reason here: your dogs work in a pack, while your cars do not. In other words, when it comes to having multiple dogs, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, because dog packs are more dangerous than dogs working alone.

Insurance should be priced appropriately for those who own “high-risk” dogs (meaning the bully breeds, the very large dogs, those having a history of biting people, or which have been declared dangerous by the authorities). The ownership of these dogs is not to be encouraged, and certainly should not be subsidized. However, the losses caused by dog bites should not be borne by the victims and parties like landlords who normally are secondarily responsible. Therefore the policies for “high-risk” dogs should require the payment of premiums that reflect the “actuarial risk” presented by these animals. 

In summary, insurance companies should be required to insure all dogs regardless of breed, and should be required to make canine liability insurance available. However, the premiums should be based upon the size, number and history of a person’s dogs, as well as whether the dog is a “high-risk” dog. Dog owners all should have insurance, and should be automatically liable for injuries and harm caused by their dogs. Landlords should be automatically liable if a tenant’s dog injures a person, because landlords can help our animal control departments to police the insurance requirements for dog owners.