Could Your Pet Pooch Void Your Home Insurance?

Dog owners should read their home insurance policy's fine print. Not all companies will insure a property that is home to certain types of dogs.

Canadians love their pets. The Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) estimates there are roughly 8.2 million dogs as pets in the country and 8.3 million cats. All told, the CAHI says 41% of households have at least one dog as a pet and 38% at least one feline. And while you would never consider the home insurance implications of owning a cat or two, the same isn’t true if you own a dog.

Why? Dog bites. The CAHI reports that every year in Canada about 500,000 dog bites occur.

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Dogs and Your Home Insurance

Your dog is a member of your family. However, to an insurer, it is also your property, which means you may be liable if your dog bites or attacks someone. When a dog bites and you’re sued as the pet’s parent, your home insurance policy would typically protect you from a lawsuit. That is why, if you are a dog owner of any breed of canine, it's best to ensure that the company you have your home insurance through knows about your four-legged family member.

There are some breeds of dogs that may give some home insurance providers reason to pause. The list may be similar to the breeds of dogs banned by some municipalities throughout the country or even the province-wide ban in Ontario (e.g. pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, and American pit bull terrier).

Even if you own one of these pooches, a call to your provider to ensure you are protected is essential. Some insurers don't care about the breed of your dog, but others do, and it's better to know now if you're covered because if the worst happens, the outcome could be costly. The U.S.-based Insurance Information Institute estimates the average cost of a home insurance liability claim due to a dog bite was $44,760 in 2019.

If it turns out your insurance company excludes coverage because of the type of dog you own, then shop around for a home insurance policy that provides you with the personal liability coverage you need to ensure all members of your family are protected.

Tips to Prevent Dog Bites

No matter what type of dog you have, any dog can bite; and, with approximately 8.2 million dogs in Canada, owners play a significant role in ensuring their dog doesn't hurt someone:

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered tend to be less aggressive and are less likely to bite.
  • Socialize your dog. It’s important that your dog meet, greet, and interact with a variety of people, animals, and places at a young age, so it doesn't feel threatened in strange situations.
  • Train your dog with positive reinforcement. Early on, take your dog to training and obedience classes. These classes teach you how to train and control your dog, while the animal learns how to behave and interact properly.
  • Spend time with your dog. Dogs are social beings, and spending time with your dog is important. Play and interact with your dog regularly and provide lots of chew toys and balls for games. But, avoid aggressive games like tug-of-war or wrestling, because your dog won't always understand the difference between play and real-life situations.
  • Take proactive steps to ensure your pet's health. Walk and exercise your dog regularly, feed it an appropriate diet, and take it to a vet at least annually for a checkup. A healthy dog that isn't ill or in pain is less likely to bite.
  • Always supervise when there are children. Never leave a child younger than 10-years-old alone with a dog — even the trusted family pet.

Owning any dog is a significant responsibility, and for many homeowners, it comes as a surprise that having one could also increase their personal liability. And, since there is no way to truly guarantee your dog won't hurt someone, it's best to talk to your home insurer to ensure you're covered.

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