We know your Pit Bull is the sweetest part of your family, but there’s no denying that their breed gets a bad rap. Breed discrimination is controversial — there have even been studies that show Chihuahuas can be more aggressive than stronger breeds like Pit Bulls — but unfortunately, insurance companies weigh your pup’s breed pretty heavily when figuring out your homeowners or renters coverage. When getting insurance for your home or rental, owning a Pit Bull means you’re likely to face higher rates or, unfortunately, be denied coverage entirely.
Why do insurers care about dog breed?
While any dog could bite someone in extreme circumstances, insurers are generally wary of larger and stronger breeds. It’s assumed that in the event of an incident, more physically dominant dogs are capable of causing more damage. There’s data to support this theory, with Pit Bulls, in particular, responsible for over 60% of fatal dog attacks in the U.S. between 2005 and 2017. Even if your pup is only part Pit Bull, insurers could still hold it against you when assessing your coverage.
Dog breeds insurers commonly won’t cover:
Pit Bulls aren’t the only breed blacklisted by insurers. Dog breeds insurance companies commonly won’t cover include:
- Chow Chows
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Wolves or wolf hybrids
Check policy restrictions
Incidents caused by your dog, like property damage or injury, are typically covered in the personal liability and medical payment sections of a homeowners or renters policy. But the particular rules for Pit Bulls will vary by insurer. So check for canine policies on insurer websites or call and ask a representative. Whether an insurer will deny you coverage can be highly circumstantial. Some local agencies, and even different branches of larger companies, may have different policies.
Many providers, like Nationwide, will offer coverage for Pit Bulls and other “aggressive” breeds, if they’ve earned a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate. The CGC program is a behavior training program run by the American Kennel Club and helps prove to insurers that your pup is indeed safe.
Note for residents of Michigan or Pennsylvania – both of these states have outlawed breed discrimination and insurance companies there are not allowed to cancel or deny your coverage based on your dog’s breed.
Higher rates, regardless
Keep in mind that even if your insurer does offer coverage for your Pit Bull, your rates will be higher than if you didn’t own a dog. Dog-related injuries accounted for a third of homeowners insurance liability claims in 2017, costing almost $700 million. Because of this higher risk, your policy will need a higher liability limit. Instead of the $100,000 baseline, for example, your policy may require a $300,000 liability limit.
Don’t hide your dog
During the quote process, an insurer will ask you details about your household, like how many people live in the house, if anyone is a smoker, and if you operate a business from your home. This is typically the section where they will also inquire about whether you have a dog, if it has bitten someone before, and what kind of breed it is.
A section from Esurance’s online quote process.
While technically you don’t have to tell your insurance company about your dog (sometimes they don’t even ask), it’s best to disclose the information anyway. If you own a Pit Bull, or other dog breed your provider deems aggressive, and you don’t tell them, any claims related to the dog will likely be denied and your policy could even be canceled. That could mean significant medical expenses or property repair costs. The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that the average cost paid out for a dog bite claim was $39,017. Without insurance coverage, that’s a pretty significant bill to pay out-of-pocket.
Alternative ways to insure your Pit Bull
There are a few workarounds to covering dog-related claims if the traditional liability portion won’t suffice.
Umbrella Policy: You can use personal umbrella coverage to supplement your liability insurance. It’s essentially extra coverage for claims that have a policy limit (like medical or liability). Most umbrella policy add-ons cost between $150 and $250 annually.
Canine Liability Insurance: A specialized policy that offers broad coverage for any dog breed. It’s typically purchased separately from smaller insurers. If you opt for this addition, you should still inform your homeowners insurance company that you own a dog.