Owning a house with a white picket fence and a two-car garage is nice, but for some people, the dream isn’t picture perfect until they add a dog. Man’s best friend has innumerable emotional rewards, and scientific research even proves that owning a dog is a legitimate health benefit. In short, there’s no reason to stop yourself from owning a dog — unless it spikes your home insurance premiums and you can’t afford it. Thankfully, that’s not always the case.
We’ll give you the bad news upfront: Owning a pitbull could affect your homeowner’s insurance—but maybe not the way you think.
Most homeowners assume that having a pit bull will increase their premiums, but that’s not always the case. That’s because insurance companies have a variety of ways to deal with the increased risk. Don’t worry — if you love your pit there are still ways to have good insurance and mitigate costs on your premiums.
Let’s delve into how owning a pitbull affects you as a homeowner, what you can do about it, and how to find good insurance anyway.
Why does my homeowners insurance even care what kind of dog I own?
A standard homeowners insurance policy typically comes with liability coverage. If someone is hurt on your property, you could be subject to a lawsuit or liable for their medical expenses. Liability coverage protects you from these costs.
The most common type of liability claim placed by homeowners is for dog bite claims.
If you own a dog breed that insurance companies consider dangerous, more likely to bite someone, or more likely to injure someone with their bite, they will take steps to manage what they see as increased risk.
How does owning a pit bull affect my homeowner’s insurance?
In the worst-case scenario, some companies won’t want to insure you if you own a dog they think is a “dangerous” breed. Other companies accept homeowners with a pit bull, but their policy may come with a few caveats.
The Dangerous Dog Clause
Some insurance companies have ‘dangerous dog’ clauses in their terms. If you own a dog that’s on their breed blacklist, they won’t insure you in the first place. If you’re already insured by a company with this policy and then you adopt a pit bull, they could drop your coverage or refuse to pay next time you file a claim.
These measures aren’t limited to just pit bulls either. Common breeds considered dangerous by insurance companies include Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, wolf or coyote hybrid dogs, and other breeds. Even dog breeds that are not typically considered dangerous may be blacklisted if they have any kind of bite history.
Not all policies are created equal
Not all insurance companies handle pit bulls the same way.
There’s no legal or industry-wide standard and policies about dog breeds vary from company to company. That’s good news since with a little extra research, you can find a company that will still offer you home insurance while you own a pit bull. So if there’s no space for you and your pit bull at your current company, don’t sweat it.
It could be the case that your insurance company will continue to insure you even if you have a pitbull. If so, that’s great! Just make sure you speak with a representative and look closely at the contract’s fine print. Let’s cover a few of your options.
Some insurance companies have special accommodations that allow them to cover homes with pit bulls.
- You might have to pay higher premiums (just as you suspected!)
- You might have to show the insurance company proof that your dog is friendly and fully-trained not to bite humans or other dogs.
- You might have to sign a rider saying you’ll pay for any dog bite-related claims or lawsuits out of your own pocket—more on this later.
- You might have to take pictures that prove your yard is adequately fenced in, or that you have the equipment to safely house a large dog.
No matter the policy, you should still disclose your dog
If you get a pitbull without telling your homeowners insurance company, it could lead to major problems in the future. For instance, if your dog ever does bite someone, even accidentally, and the victim sues, you would be on the hook to pay all the costs out of pocket. Your insurance company would have legal standing to refuse your claim — or even drop you.
How to improve your chance of getting home insurance coverage with a pit bull
Review your current policy, if you have one.
The first step is to take a really close look at your home insurance policy. If you don’t have insurance yet, review the plans you’re considering.
Here are a few questions in mind:
- Does your policy have a section that talks about pets or dogs in particular?
- Does it say anything about pit bulls or certain breeds of dogs?
- What exactly does it say about owning a dog or notifying the insurance company?
- Are pit bulls totally banned, or can you own one as long as you jump through a few extra hoops?
- Do you need to sign a waiver saying you’ll cover all liability claims for your dog biting somebody?
If you can answer all of these questions, you’ll have a better idea of what to do next and how your insurance company will react to your pit.
Invest in training for your dog
Investing in obedience classes and other training is good for your pet, but it’s also good for your bottom line. It could help save you money on premiums, convince your insurance company to take your dog on as a risk, and assure them that you’re a responsible owner. It can even give you the tools to prevent a bite claim from ever happening in the first place.
If you have records of your dog’s obedience training or a letter from a vet or behaviorist asserting good behavior, you may have better luck negotiating with your insurance company.
Secure Your Yard
One way to prevent or limit dog bite liability claims is to prevent accidental or unsupervised interactions with your dog.
If you have a yard, make sure it’s secure so that your dog can’t escape or get into trouble. If your dog is prone to digging, make sure your barrier extends below the ground. If you have a gate, installing a lock will prevent curious children or other neighbors from accessing your pet when you’re not around to watch.
Lastly, make sure that your dogs can’t open the doors to your house. If you have a dog door, make sure it can be locked. While your dog would have to be truly brilliant to turn a doorknob, some back doors and patios have simple lever door handles that don’t require thumbs to open. Your dog can accidentally open a door like this by jumping, so you may want to install a deadbolt or an electronic lock to prevent escape.
Your insurance company may ask for proof of these safety measures before confirming your policy.
Sign a waiver — and pick up a Canine Liability policy
If you still can’t get your insurance to cover your pit bull — or you don’t want to get stuck with higher premiums — you can pick up a canine liability policy.
This is a special policy designed to cover any dog, no matter how difficult. This includes so-called “dangerous” breeds and dogs with a bite history. Some of these policies even cover property damage caused by your pet.
If your preferred insurance company is inflexible when it comes to covering pit bulls, you can offer to sign a waiver volunteering to take on the liability yourself. Alternatively, your insurance company may require you to sign the waiver excluding bite claims from your policy.
The canine liability policy will protect you in case of an incident, and it may also convince the homeowners insurance company that you won’t change your mind in an emergency. Meanwhile, the rest of your home will still be protected from other hazards.
What if an insurance company has a zero-tolerance policy towards pit bulls?
On the other hand, a company could also flat out refuse to serve you, or their updated premiums could be too high for you to handle.
In that case, you may need to find a different insurance company that works for you and your dog! Policies on “dangerous” dogs vary company-to-company. So if your current company has a clause that won’t let you own the dog of your dreams, find a new one.
That said, you still need to do research when you buy. Dangerous dog clauses are more common than not, so even if you do find a company that offers you insurance at a rate you like, don’t jump on it before you’re sure of exactly what’s in the contract.
Regardless, owning a pit bull won’t make it easy to score a good home insurance contract — but it’s definitely doable, so don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.