Elizabeth Taylor is quoted as saying, “Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses.”
Will Rogers said, “If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.” There’s no doubt about it - Dogs are man’s best friend! So why do insurance underwriters and agents have so many questions and concerns about dogs?
Most consumers do not realize that claims relating to dog bites can often give rise to extremely high payouts by insurance companies. Your homeowner’s policy provides liability coverage for this type of injury and provides for legal defense as well. Because of the possibility of a bite claim, dog owners will be asked questions regarding the breed of dog they own and if there has been any past bite history with this dog. Years ago, insurance companies typically had a listing of dog breeds that they considered to have a “propensity to bite”. If you owned a breed on the list – liability coverage could be difficult, if not impossible, to purchase. Thankfully that has given way to a more favorable course of underwriting because let’s face it – if it has teeth – any breed of dog can and will bite if provoked. Underwriting based on breed is not a fair determination of possible bite activity. Most insurance companies today are more concerned with bite history as history can more likely predict temperament. If you own a dog that has bitten in the past, changing insurance companies can be difficult.
Even state governments have moved away from laws that govern the ownership of certain breeds of dogs, using behavior as the key factor in defining an individual dog as dangerous. Once a dog is classified as dangerous, the owner may have to adhere to certain requirements – including but not limited to fencing, security, and leash requirements if away from home.
Georgia has what we know as leash laws regarding dangerous dogs:
Any owner of a dangerous dog shall not allow the dog to be off the owner’s property unless the dog is restrained by a leash no longer than six feet and is under the immediate physical control of someone capable of preventing the dog from engaging with any other human or animal when necessary. The owner of a vicious dog may not allow the dog to be outside a secure enclosure on the owner’s property unless the dog is muzzled and restrained by a leash no longer than six feet and under the immediate physical control of someone capable of preventing the dog from engaging with any other human or animal when necessary. Applicable statute(s): O.C.G.A. §4-8-29
As a homeowner, there are several things you can do to minimize the risks associated with potential bite activity.
- Well-trained dogs are not as prone to attack unless provoked – obedience training is a good idea
- Keep your dog healthy and vaccinated
- Understand how your dog reacts to children and take appropriate measures when children interact with your dog
- Secure your dog with fencing when they are enjoying life outdoors and not on a leash
Talk to your agent if you have questions about dog ownership and how it affects your insurance program.