In Your Corner: Dog Liability Insurance

By Ryan Elijah

June 30, 2011 Updated Jun 30, 2011 at 5:18 PM EDT

For Lisa Ganaway and her husband, their dogs, Sachi and Kane are just like family members. However, they've found many insurance agents and landlords don't share in that view.

"if you tell them what kind of dog you have, I've just had them hang up on me", said Lisa Ganaway.

Lisa lives at one of Fort Wayne's larger apartment complexes and the
German Shepherd and Akita are only allowed there due to a grandfather
clause. She does have renters insurance through the complex. They would like to rent a home, but they've been unable to get liability insurance because most companies now have a list of restricted dogs they won't cover. Those
lists usually include pit bulls, chows, dobermans, rottweilers and
Akita's and occasionally German Shepherds.

"these dogs I have aren't aggressive, I've never known them to be on any restricted lists, especially the German Shepperd, not all dogs are the same", said Lisa.

While you could describe Lisa's dogs as large "babies", insurance
companies see them as liabilities, nearly $400 million dollars in claims
were paid out for dog bites last year. California led the way while
Ohio had the 3rd highest number of claims and Indiana rounded out the
top 10.

State Farm Insurance had nearly 3500 dog bite claims last year
resulting in the company paying out more than $90 million dollars, but
as a company, they do not refuse insurance based on the breed of the dog.

"State Farm, at this point, does not limit any kind of coverage based on the breed of the dog, but some companies may have found that their loss resolutions are causing them to move in a different direction", said State Farm Insurance agent Sam Till.

Till says his office automatically covers the dog, but he pointed out
in Ohio, Pit Bulls are not covered because they're classified as a
"vicious dog". While the issue is a relatively minor one for his
office, nationally, nearly one-third of all homeowner liability claims involve dog
bites. The average cost of a claim is around $25,000. Homeowners and renters insurance normally provide at least $100,000 in benefits for dog bite victims.

As for the Ganaway's they did finally find an insurance agent that
would include the dogs, but the bigger problem is finding a homeowner
that will rent them a home.

"not all dogs are the same, dog owners need to be careful how they raise their dogs to make sure they don't make it hard for other owners. I would say everyone needs to make sure before they get a new dog that they can get insurance coverage", said Ganaway.

Lisa has even offered to bring the dogs to meet the homeowner, but to
this point, that offer has not been accepted.

Top 10 States for dog bite claims in 2010:

1. California $11.3 Million dollars (369 claims)
2. Illinois $9.7 Million (317 claims)
3. Ohio $5.7 Million (215 claims)
4. Texas $3.7 Million (202 claims)
5. Michigan $5.2 Million (166 claims)
10. Indiana $1.8 Million (114 claims)

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