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High-risk dogs for home insurance: It could cost you

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — All homeowners and buyers need home insurance. But owning a pit bull may not only make it difficult to secure home insurance, it may possibly cost you more.

According to a report by QuoteWizard, home insurers consider pit bulls high risk because of the potential for bites and attacks. Pit bulls are lumped into the large dog breed category some insurers say are capable of causing more damage and therefore are a higher risk for higher claims, the report said.

Some companies will either refuse insurance or raise the policy price if a pit bull is living on the property.

These policies impact pups and people who are just looking for a place to live.

“We have had dogs adopted out that have been returned because of landlords/insurance companies,” said Nicole Gitzke with the City of Bakersfield Animal Care Center. “We recently learned huskies have been added to the list and that was a surprise to all of us.”

The most common breeds seen as high-risk for home insurance companies include pit bulls, pit bull mixes, Rottweilers, Akitas, Presa Canarios, mastiffs, German shepherds and wolf hybrids.

“Our shelter is full of German shepherds, huskies, and pit bulls,” Gitzke added. “These are dogs that face an unfair stigma and sit much longer in the shelter because most renters cannot have them.”

California insurance companies paid out the most money for dog bite claims in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That amount totaled $135,900,066 for 2,103 claims. Florida paid the second-most in the nation totaling $68,062,085.

“Unfortunately, there are quite a few breeds that are discriminated against when it comes to renters and home insurance policies. It is targeting a breed because of a stigma, rather than on a case by case basis,” Gitzke said.

But there are companies that will insure “high-risk” breeds. State Farm does not ask about the breed of your dog at all, while Allstate and USAA cover high-risk breeds on a case-by-case basis, according to the report.

While some states including Michigan and Pennsylvania have passed legislation prohibiting insurers from denying coverage based on an animal’s breed, it is not a nationwide practice, yet.

Another report by QuoteWizard said many insurance companies have gotten backlash on breed restrictions. Organizations including the American Kennel Club, the Humane Society of the United States and Best Friends have called on companies to ban the practice as it raises concerns about how people are treated based on what kind of breed their pet is.

However, if you can provide your pitty or pup is a good girl or boy, the aforementioned insurance companies say they will give your dog the benefit of the doubt.

Ways to help prove your pup is a good dog:

  • Enroll your “high-risk breed” in a dog training class.
  • Get the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate from the American Kennel Club. This is an excellent and respected way to provide your dogs with good behavior.
  • Spay or neutralize your dogs. There is evidence that suggests that a fixed dog is more docile and well-behaved.
  • Keep up to date on your dog’s vaccinations and vet visits.

You can also minimize risk altogether by trying these tips:

  • Get to know your dog’s stressors and trigger behaviors in order to avoid them.
  • Socialize your “high-risk breed” with other dogs. This reduces the chance that it will feel threatened when in close proximity to other dogs and strangers.
  • Leash train your dog.
  • Train your dog to drop toys when playtime gets too rough. This way it’ll know the signal to stop.
  • Do not leave your dog in the care of strangers or people who have children. Kids don’t instantly know your dog’s limits and may accidentally provoke it.

If you are unable to find a home insurance company willing to work with your “high-risk” breed, the next step would be to look into an umbrella policy or canine liability insurance, the report said.

“We encourage everyone to do your research before adopting any animal. If you are interested in getting a Rottweiler, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into,” Gitzke said. “Landlords and insurance companies can turn you away.”

“We don’t agree with it but we never want to see an animal end up back in the shelter,” she added.

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