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How owning a dog can impact your home insurance

It might surprise you that the Humane Society of Canada estimates a dog bite happens every minute in Canada, which amounts to more than 500,000 bites a year.

Insurance companies pay out millions of dollars in liability claims annually, and while the Insurance Bureau of Canada doesn’t track dog-related claims, one insurance company reported that dog bite incidents have been in the rise in the last two years,  possibly coinciding with the spike in “pandemic pets.”

With an estimated three million pets joining Canadian homes during the pandemic, primarily cats and dogs, it’s crucial for homeowners to understand the possible insurance implications their animals pose.

Here’s how to ensure your dog is protected under your home insurance policy, and how to help prevent dog bites from happening in the first place.

Does home insurance cover dogs?

Dogs are considered their owner’s property, meaning the owner is liable if the dog bites or attacks someone. Typically, you would be protected under your home insurance policy, but it is a good idea for you to touch base with your broker to ensure you’re protected.

Certain breeds, for example, may not be covered under your home or tenant’s insurance policy – or it may be required that you notify your insurance provider of the dog breed to be insured. Every insurance company is different. Some companies will insure all breeds while others have exemptions.

Some breeds that may not be covered include:

  • Pit Bulls
  • Staffordshire Bull Terriers
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • German Shepherds
  • Rottweilers
  • Dobermans
  • Siberian Huskies

Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. It’s always best to check with your provider even if your dog is friendly and has never bitten anyone before. If your insurance company does not cover your specific breed, you can shop around to find the coverage you need or work with one of the brokers or CSRs at DPM Insurance Group to find coverage that fits your situation. Don’t wait to find out after the fact – it could be costly.

What to do if your dog bites someone

First, make sure the injured person is okay, and remove the dog from the situation as soon as possible. As a resident of Ontario, medical coverage won’t be a worry, but there may be additional losses related to the incident that require compensation, such like if the victim is unable to work for an extended period of time due to their injuries.

Your home insurance provider would need to be involved in these situations, especially if the victim involves a lawyer.

Should your dog bite or attack someone, call your insurance broker to find out what they recommend. They are experienced with these types of claims and can point you in the right direction.

What does your insurance cover?

If your dog injures someone, that person may be eligible to collect compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and property damage. Typically, home insurance policies protect you for liability up to a certain amount, but you may wish to discuss increasing that amount with your insurance provider if you have a dog.

Dog owners can be held liable for injuries

Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act specifies that “the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal.” That means no matter the degree of negligence on behalf of the owner, they are liable for the incident. Any damages awarded, however, are in proportion to the fault. Even if the owner was unaware of the incident or tried to prevent the incident, he or she is still responsible for any injuries sustained.

“Owner” in this sense may refer to the person possessing the dog, someone harbouring the dog (while this is vague in the legislation, several personal injury lawyer websites suggest responsibility can fall on someone babysitting a dog that injures someone while under their care), or, in the case of the owner being a minor, the person responsible for that minor.

Tips for preventing dog bites

Children are especially susceptible to dog bites, so it’s important to take steps to prevent them. Here’s how to thwart your dog from biting or attacking someone.

  • Never leave a child alone with a dog
  • Even more important, never leave a baby (especially newborns) alone with a dog
  • Avoid petting dogs that are not yours, even if it is tempting
  • Do not give unfamiliar dogs treats
  • Teach children how to play gently with dogs, as well as how to approach dogs in a non-confrontational manner
  • Do not encourage your dog to play aggressively
  • Keep your dog on a leash when taking them for a walk
  • Consider obedience or socialization training for your dog
  • If your dog exhibits signs of aggression, such as snarling or heavy barking, remove your dog from the situation
  • Do not involve your dog in situations you know make them uncomfortable or anxious as this may provoke aggression

Remember, all breeds — no matter what size or personality type — have the capacity to inflict harm on people. You never know when a dog is going to bite. Protect yourself by speaking with one of the brokers or CSRs at DPM Insurance Group. They can answer any questions about dogs and your home insurance and ensure you have enough coverage.

 

Source: Insurance Hotline

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