Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

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Written by
Cara Carlone
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If you are a dog owner, you might be wondering if your homeowners insurance covers dog bites. You hope that Fido is well trained and non-aggressive enough not to bite anyone, but just in case, you’d like to know if your home insurance would pay a claim if he did.

You’ll be glad to know that homeowners insurance does cover dog bites. To learn more about insurance and dog bites, keep reading. With over 20 years of helping consumers understand their home insurance, I’m here to assist you in gaining a good working knowledge of your coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • While your home insurance will probably offer coverage for dog bites, there may be breed restrictions that are excluded for coverage.

  • Landlords may be held responsible if your dog bites someone and it can be shown that they knew your dog might be a risk but made no effort to confine or remove it.

  • Your homeowners insurance will typically include these two coverages for dog bites: medical payments coverage and liability coverage.

  • In most cases, home insurance will provide coverage if your dog bites someone on or off your premises.

Does Home Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

Home insurance generally will include coverage if your dog bites someone, or another dog. This isn’t limited to your premises. Coverage extends to wherever your dog was when they bit and/or attacked either a person or another animal.

The personal liability part of your home insurance policy will cover dog bites, as well, if you were negligent in any way that contributed to the incident. This type of personal liability coverage is commonly referred to as vicarious liability. By law, you are liable if your dog bites someone or an animal simply because he’s your dog. You’re responsible for what your dog might do.

The other sort of coverage that is provided with your home insurance is medical payments. This coverage will pay the victim’s medical expenses up to the limits as defined in your policy. Anything over and above those limits, you are responsible and must pay them yourself.

A liability policy will help with your legal expenses, judgments or settlements, up to the policy limit. The majority of home insurance policies have a base limit of $100,000. However, the Insurance Information Institute suggests increasing your coverage to around $300,000 or even $500,000.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2017 over $685 million in insurance payouts were for dog bites. So, it would probably give any dog owner some peace of mind to know that their home insurance would provide coverage.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, so having adequate insurance is only wise.

What Losses Are Covered By Home Insurance For Dog Bites?

In most cases, if your dog bites someone, home insurance will cover the medical costs and legal fees, if any, resulting from the incident. This coverage falls under the personal liability part of your policy. Since you are responsible for your dog, it is considered your personal liability if it bites someone.

This also applies if your dog attacks and bites another dog, cat or other animal such as farm animals and livestock.

One thing to note is that your home insurance will cover dog bites even if they occur away from your home. For instance, in a park, out for a walk around your neighborhood, or wherever.

There are certain situations where you are not held liable if your dog bites someone.

Note: Some homeowner insurance policies have a separate deductible for hurricanes or wind storms. The deductible might be a percentage of your dwelling amount, so check your deductible before you file a claim. You don’t want to file a claim if your deductible is going to be more than the amount of the damage.

When Are Dog Bites Not Covered By Homeowners Insurance?

Although your homeowners insurance will provide coverage for dog bites in the majority of scenarios, there are times when it won’t.

Here are some situations when your home insurance will not offer coverage for dog bites:

  • Restricted Breeds: Some insurance carriers have exclusions for particular dog breeds. This is based on the breed’s perceived risk and incidents of attacks.
  • Provocation or Trespassing :If your dog bites someone who was trespassing in your home or on your property, insurance providers may not cover the incident. Provoking or teasing your dog might lead to denial of a claim, as well.
  • History of Bites: If your dog is a repeat offender with a past history of biting, insurance providers may be wary about paying claims, which might affect your coverage.
  • Family Members: As a general rule, home insurance doesn’t provide coverage if your dog bites anyone who lives in your home.

Always check your home insurance policy for any exclusions such as restricted breeds.

What If Your Dog Bites Someone In Your Home?

If your dog bites someone in your home, the first thing you should do is confine the dog where he can’t bite the person again. Naturally, this is provided the victim is a visitor in your home and not participating in a home invasion.

Next, check out the damage from the dog bite. If it’s not severe and mainly superficial, you should bathe the area and apply a temporary dressing to the wound. Depending on the severity of the bite, advise the person to see their doctor or go to the emergency room for further treatment.

If the wound is severe, notify your insurance company. You can reach out to the claims department, or agent, and let them know about the incident.

Document the incident. If possible, take photos that clearly show the dog bite. If there are legal ramifications, ask your insurer to provide an attorney for you.

Are There Ways To Avoid Dog Bites?

Yes, there are things you can do to avoid having your dog bite someone or another animal. Here are several ways to help minimize the risk of dog bites:

  • Training: Training your dog may help avoid a biting  incident. If your dog has been taught to obey basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” then a risky situation might be defused.
  • Spay/Neuter Your Dog: Research has shown that spayed and neutered dogs are much less likely to be aggressive. Some pet insurance policies cover spaying.
  • Supervision: If your dog will be in close quarters with children, be sure to supervise the interaction.
  • Socializing Your Dog: Early socialization helps dogs become comfortable around people and other animals.
  • No Rough Stuff: You might think it’s amusing to play rough with your dog—a game of tug-of-war for example–and get him over excited and aggressive, but it’s a bad idea. This can lead to biting.
  • Provide Good Care: Provide your dog with proper care. Making sure your dog is well fed, pain free, and healthy.
  • Teach Your Children: Besides training for your dog, train your children, or any children who are around the dog, how to play gently and safely.

When Should You File A Home Insurance Claim For Dog Bites?

There is no set-in-stone answer to this question because there are several nuances involved.

It’s best to weigh the pros and cons of filing a claim, if possible, before making a decision. For instance, if your dog bites a visitor to your home and barely scratches, instead of actually puncturing, the skin; it might be better not to file a claim with your home insurer.

Why? Because in most cases, you can count on your premiums being increased after filing a claim. Another point to consider is that for a very minor injury in which antiseptic and a band aid are sufficient for the wound, your deductible will almost certainly be considerably more than the cost of treatment.

The flip side to this coin is if the dog bite is serious enough to require medical treatment such as sutures or other measures. In this case, you would want to notify your insurance provider as quickly as you can, letting them know what has occurred. That way, your insurer can procure legal representation for you if needed.

If your policy excludes certain dog breeds from coverage, and your dog is one of those breeds, you won’t be able to file a claim.

In the event that your dog bites someone or someone else’s pet, remember that even if the incident doesn’t take place on your property you’re still covered in most cases.

How To File An Insurance Claim For Dog Bites

Filing a claim for dog bites is more or less the same process as filing any type of claim.

Note: Some insurers have separate deductibles for wind or hurricane losses. These deductibles may be a percentage of your home’s dwelling limit and not a flat amount. Always look at the correct deductible before deciding whether the damage is more than that amount.

Here is what you should do if you’re going to file a claim for dog bites:

After you confine your dog, and assist the injured person with getting medical care, notify your insurance provider about the incident as quickly as possible. Take photos of the wound, along with thorough notes documenting exactly what happened as best you can.

Be sure to let your home insurer provider know if there were extenuating circumstances that provoked your dog to bite, such as someone kicking or hitting him, for example. If the injured person’s inappropriate behavior caused your dog to bite, chances are your insurance won’t pay a claim.

Otherwise, your personal liability and medical payment parts of your policy will provide coverage.

Are There Other Types Of Coverage Available For Dog Bites?

If dog bites are a concern of yours, you’ll be pleased to know that there are additional ways to protect yourself if Fido decides to bite.

Here are two ways to get extra coverage over and above what your home insurance will pay for dog bites:

  • Pet Insurance: Pet insurance typically covers veterinarian costs, but some policies include liability coverage. Check your policy to find out if you have liability coverage for dog bites.
  • Umbrella Insurance: Umbrella policies provide additional liability coverage that extends beyond your homeowners insurance. There are also home insurance providers that specialize in dog liability coverage and cover injuries your dog caused. These might be an add-on or endorsement to your existing policy, or a stand-alone policy.


Can you buy separate insurance coverage for dog bites?

Yes, you can. Additional coverage for dog bites might be added to your current policy, an endorsement to your policy, or a separate policy exclusively for dog bites.

Since, as I mentioned earlier, the medical expense part of your home insurance policy usually only pays $1,000-$5,000, and medical treatment is extremely expensive, you might be well served by purchasing additional coverage. This is especially true if you have hefty financial assets you want to protect.

Does a standard home insurance policy cover dog bites?

In most cases, yes. The exception might be if your policy has an exclusion for certain breeds it considers high risk.


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