- Some home insurance companies ban certain dog breeds, which means there is no liability coverage if your dog injures someone or destroys their property.
- Doberman Pinschers, pit bulls and Rottweilers are the most common dog breeds banned by homeowners insurance companies.
- Consider shopping around for insurance companies without breed restrictions or buying a canine liability or umbrella insurance policy if you own a restricted breed.
Certain insurance companies may raise your home insurance rates if you own a specific dog breed, or limit or exclude coverage in your policy. Owning a banned dog breed could mean your home insurance company will deny a claim if your dog bites or injures someone, leaving you to pay the entire cost of injuries and legal fees.
The average cost of a dog bite claim in 2021 was $49,025, according to the Insurance Information Institute. When insurance companies review dog liability claims, certain breeds show up more often than others. Knowing what homeowners insurance companies ban dog breeds may help you decide which carrier to use and what to do if you own a banned dog breed.
Inside this article
- Dog breeds most often banned by homeowners insurance companies
- Why do some insurance companies deny certain breeds?
- Is dog breed discrimination legal?
- When are dogs never covered by homeowners insurance?
- What do I do if my insurer won't cover my dog?
- What can I do to help prevent my dog from biting?
- Frequently asked questions
Dog breeds most often banned by homeowners insurance companies
Insurance companies are not always open about the breeds they ban, making it harder for homeowners to decide which company to choose. We analyzed more than 40 home insurance companies across the country to find the most common banned dog breeds.
The dog breeds most often banned by homeowners insurance companies are:
Wolf dogs and hybrids
Presa Canario (canary dog)
Pit bull is a term used to encompass several Bull Terrier breeds and mixes of these breeds. American Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers all fall under the pit bull umbrella.
Why do some insurance companies deny certain breeds?
The simple answer to why some insurance companies deny certain breeds is risk exposure. In 2021, there were 17,989 dog bite liability claims filed resulting in more than $882 million paid by home insurance carriers, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
“These breeds are responsible for a high number of dog bite claims and insurance companies want to minimize paying expensive claims,” states Elissa Weimer-Sentner, professional dog trainer and owner of Paw & Order Dog Training. It’s like an insurance company requiring a self-latching gate if you own a swimming pool. The more risk mitigation factors you provide, the less risk exposure you and your insurer have.
While some companies may focus more on each individual dog’s temperament and history, many go with blanket bans on the breeds most likely to bite. Blanket breed bans leave no option for professionally trained assistance, search and rescue or therapy dogs that fall under these breed types, advises information website PetPlace.
Is dog breed discrimination legal?
Yes, dog breed discrimination is legal in most states. However, in a few states, legislation has been passed to limit or eliminate breed discrimination by home insurance companies. Some states may not allow breed discrimination but have other requirements, like a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage you’ll need if you own a specific dog breed.
States with limitations to breed discrimination or no breed discrimination include:
Not only can insurance companies use breed-specific legislation (BSL), but local cities and counties can also ban certain dog breeds. For instance, if you live in Prince George’s County, Maryland, it is against the law to own a pit bull. Even if you have homeowners insurance through a company that doesn’t ban dog breeds, your liability claim may be denied if you are held legally responsible for owning a banned breed in your area.
The consequences of dog breed bans
“Breed bans often force dog owners to surrender their pets to animal shelters that are already overcrowded,” warns Tom Bohne, founder of pit bull advocacy group Kennel to Couch. Shelter life can not only affect their temperament but also build anxiety and other negative behaviors. It can make it more difficult for banned dogs to be adopted, especially when insurance companies and BSL make it harder for them to find loving homes with good owners willing to put in the work to train and exercise them properly.
Banning a breed can also encourage irresponsible dog ownership, says Weimer-Sentner. Owners may avoid seeking veterinary care, neglect their dogs' health and avoid outside activities, limiting their socialization. It can also lead to fewer dogs being microchipped and spayed or neutered, all to avoid detection.
"Rather than considering a dog’s breed or size when it comes to insurance coverage, insurers should look at the individual dog and consider its history, upbringing and temperament,” Bohne advises. Just like people, every dog has its own personality, agrees Weimer-Sentner.
When are dogs never covered by homeowners insurance?
Breed bans are not the only thing that can cause a dog to not be covered by homeowners insurance. A home insurance policy may not cover a dog of any breed if it has a history of property damage or biting.
If your dog has a bite history, your insurance company may require you to sign a liability waiver before issuing a homeowners policy. The insurer could exclude the dog from liability coverage, which means if you file a claim for legal or medical bills relating to your dog biting, it won’t be covered. Owning a dog with a bite history could also cause an insurance company to deny coverage or not renew your policy.
If your dog bites you or someone in your household, regardless of its breed, your homeowners insurance will not cover your medical bills. Personal liability coverage under a home policy only covers injuries or damage to others, not household members.
Your homeowners insurance also won’t cover a claim if your dog damages your home, belongings or other structures on your property. That means if your dog destroys all the clothes in your closet or chews your drywall or carpets, you won’t get reimbursed to repair the damage or replace your belongings.
Your insurance company may also not cover damage your dog causes to someone else’s property if the dog is on the insurer’s banned breed list.
What do I do if my insurer won't cover my dog?
If your insurer won’t cover your dog, you have a few options. Asking about exceptions, shopping around and considering alternate insurance are good places to start.
Ask about exceptions
Although some insurance companies ban dog breeds without exception, others may assess individual dogs on a case-by-case basis. Ask the insurer if you can provide documentation that proves your dog’s temperament. This could be the dog’s foster parents, your neighbors or your veterinarian, says Bohne.
“Your insurance company may require you to get training or have a certain kind of yard or fence for your dog” before agreeing to cover your dog’s liability, says Weimer-Sentner. If your pet is certified as a therapy or service dog, let your insurance company know. Completing these programs is a sign that your dog can be controlled in many situations and is less prone to bite or cause damage.
Not all home insurance companies ban dog breeds. Shopping around can help you find an insurer that doesn’t ban your dog’s breed or has pet restrictions. Be up front that you have a dog and ask if there are any reasons the company would exclude them from coverage.
The insurance company might charge you a higher premium because of your dog’s breed, warns Weimer-Sentner. Shopping around can help determine which insurer is best for your needs and budget.
Consider alternative insurance
If you prefer to stick with your insurance company or can’t find one that will accept your dog’s breed, it may be time to consider alternative insurance options.
This could include an umbrella insurance policy with another carrier. Umbrella insurance offers excess liability coverage when you exhaust the underlying limits on your home or car insurance policy. If you go this route, make sure the umbrella insurer is aware of the breed restriction on your home insurance policy. The insurance company can then confirm if it would cover your dog under the umbrella policy if you have to file a liability claim.
Weimer-Sentner suggests another option: a canine liability, or pet liability, insurance policy. This policy will take the place of your homeowners liability coverage in the event you have to file a liability claim.
What can I do to help prevent my dog from biting?
“Many things can affect a dog’s tendency to be aggressive, such as their family lineage, overall health, early socialization and training,” explains Weimer-Sentner. Appropriate veterinary care and proper training can go a long way in preventing your dog from biting. Buying pet insurance is one way to offset the costs of vet care over your pet’s lifetime.
There are other things the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends you can do to help prevent your dog from biting:
Be a responsible pet owner. This includes selecting the right dog for your family based on temperament, size and energy level. Get the pet proper training, exercise it regularly and spay or neuter it to keep your pet happy, healthy and less reactive.
Educate your family and friends. Knowing how and when it’s appropriate to approach a dog is a valuable skill to have. Approaching an anxious or frightful dog in the wrong way can cause the dog to react negatively, which increases the chance it will bite someone.
Socialize your dog. If you get your dog as a puppy—or even rescue an older dog—socialize it early with friends, family and other dogs. This allows the dog to be comfortable in different surroundings and situations. Also, use a leash in public places and ensure you always have control of your dog.
Pay attention to a dog’s body language. Dogs can’t communicate like humans, but they rely on gestures, posture and vocalization to express themselves. Although we can’t always know what a dog is thinking or feeling, picking up on cues can signal that a dog is frightened, stressed or feels threatened.
On top of socializing your dog, you should also know its triggers, advises the Insurance Information Institute. If your dog gets overly excited when someone comes to the door, secure your dog in a crate or other room to limit the risk of them injuring someone. If loud noises, unfamiliar surroundings, strangers or unexpected touch triggers your pet, it may be best to leave the dog at home instead of putting it in a situation it may react negatively to.
Owning a dog comes with a great deal of responsibility. If you can’t care for your dog properly, it can increase the chance of it biting or damaging property in the future. Making your dog a good canine citizen and having the right insurance coverage in place is a great way to protect yourself and your dog.