One of our neighbours has a cute little Pomeranian, and the whole street was in shock when we found out it was attacked by an off-leash larger dog that lives a few blocks over. Fortunately, the little guy is going to be all right, but the vet bills are going to cost our friends a small fortune unless the other dog owner’s home insurance comes through.
Our friends were lucky, in that the larger dog’s owner was really apologetic and very cooperative about the whole thing. As it turns out, he’s had a few break-ins over the past couple of years and wanted an intimidating guard dog. The dog got loose on a windy day, after a strong gust blew open an improperly latched gate. Sometimes, the smallest things cause the biggest problems…
I wanted to help out our friends as much as I could, so I did some digging about how home insurance affects incidents with pets.
Liability issues and your home insurance
Most dog owners know that they are responsible for their pet’s behaviour, and with few exceptions, this applies regardless of whether the pet is on the owner’s property or not. What I didn’t know is that homeowners take big risks with their home insurance if their pet attacks someone or another animal. This can even be considered valid grounds for cancelling the owner’s home insurance policy, and these types of cancellations carry significant consequences.
If an insurer cancels a policy, the homeowner will have to find another company willing to cover them. However, a lot of insurance companies consider cancellations to be major red flags, and they may be unwilling to offer coverage. Those that do will usually charge higher premiums, given the increased risk the homeowner is deemed to pose.
The good news is that the financial damages caused by a dog attack are usually covered by the owner’s home insurance. That bodes well for our friends, since they were in no way responsible for what happened.
Encourage Well-Adjusted Pet Behaviour
Putting up a “beware of dog” sign isn’t enough to remove liability from the owner of an aggressive dog. It can actually make things more difficult for the dog owner, since that kind of warning could be construed as an implicit admission that the dog is prone to violent behaviour.
From a home insurance perspective, it is always better to take steps to ensure dogs do not behave aggressively in the first place. I did some digging and found a few common-sense tips dog owners can use to help avoid violent and tragic situations:
- All dogs should be neutered or spayed; this has been proven to significantly reduce aggression
- Dogs should be socialized from the time they are puppies, so they are used to being around different people
- It is always a good idea to have a dog professionally trained so undesirable behaviours do not become second-nature
- Dogs need regular vet care, daily exercise and proper nutrition; hungry, sick and restless animals can be unpredictable
- Make sure the dog stays in a secured area when it’s outdoors
- Always use a leash when walking a dog in public
- Never engage in aggressive play with a dog
- Never tease or provoke a dog, especially when it is trying to eat or sleep
- Never corner a dog
- Consult a vet or trainer if the dog shows any violent or aggressive tendencies
Parents of young children should teach their kids to be careful around dogs, especially dogs they don’t know. Many dog breeds are great with kids, but dogs are animals and their behaviour is guided by instinct. If they feel uncomfortable or threatened, they will defend themselves. Also, children should always be supervised when they are around dogs, no matter how gentle the pet may seem.
One other thing dog owners should consider is umbrella insurance. This type of insurance accounts for gaps and shortfalls across multiple forms of coverage, ensuring that the right kind of protection is in place no matter what might happen.
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