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Insurance against dog bites may make your pooch more expensive

Amid higher costs for dog bite claims, insurance companies are urging pet owners to be mindful of the risks
Credit: dimid_86
(Credit: Thinkstock)

Dog bite claims are getting more costly around the nation, inspiring insurers to educate homeowners about the risks and prices of pet misbehavior.

The price to settle and treat those injuries are rising, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Insurance claims for dog-related injuries rose to $700 million in 2017, a 2.2 percent increase from 2016.

Your dog is no doubt a part of the family. And more than 60 million households nationwide would agree. But among the estimated 800,000 injuries from dog bites each year according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, they can be a source of liability.

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The national average costs of a single dog bite claim rose from $33,230 in 2016 to $37,051 in 2017.

And it’s a common issue, the study said. One-third of U.S homeowners’ insurance liability claims for 2017 involved a dog bite.

“Most of the time, dog bites can be prevented through education and responsible dog ownership,” said Kenton Brine, president of the NW Insurance Council in a written statement.

Homeowners and renter’s insurance usually covers dog bite liability that helps pay for the costs of defense and damages if your pet bites someone. Most policies for homeowners provide between $100,000 and $300,000 in coverage, according to the NW Insurance Council. But for renters, they say the figure is much lower. If the claim exceeds the limit on your insurance, the dog owner is responsible for additional costs.

Policies vary by dog breed and behavior. If a dog has bitten someone before, it might be considered 'high risk' and cost the owner a higher premium or even exclude the dog from coverage in some cases.

It can happen to anyone. A dog that is usually friendly can become startled, especially when defending toys, food, or puppies. But the NW Insurance Council offered guidelines to help reduce the risk that your pup might bite someone for their Dog Bite Prevention Week.

  • Dog bite liability laws vary by state and municipalities. Last month, city officials in Yakima voted to continue a ban that prohibits ownership of a pit bull within city limits.
  • Studies show that dogs are three times less likely to bite people or other animals if they have been spayed or neutered.
  • Socialize your dog so that he or she is more comfortable around other people and animals
  • Use a leash while in public
  • Teach children not to disturb a sleeping or eating dog
  • Always ask permission from an owner before petting their dog
  • Avoid eye contact with a dog that seems threatening

For more information on dog bites and insurance, visit NW Insurance Council or call (800) 664-4942.

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