Will Homeowners Insurance Cover Dog Bites?

Find out if and when your home insurance covers dog bites on or off your property.

Christine Lacagnina Written by Christine Lacagnina
Christine Lacagnina
Written by Christine Lacagnina

Christine Lacagnina has written thousands of insurance-based articles for TrustedChoice.com by authoring consumable, understandable content.

paul martin Reviewed by Paul Martin
paul martin
Reviewed by Paul Martin

Paul Martin is the Director of Education and Development for Myron Steves, one of the largest, most respected insurance wholesalers in the southern U.S.

Angry dog aggressively barking and defending his territory. Will insurance cover dog bites?

One of the great joys of being a homeowner is sharing your space with a fur child. But when your pet becomes overly playful or aggressive with your guests, things can quickly turn grim. In the event of a bite or other injury, on top of disgruntled guests, you might even face a lawsuit.

Though no one wants to imagine their beloved pets causing anyone harm, the good news is that homeowners insurance can provide coverage for dog bite liability. Our independent insurance agents are here to help you get set up with the right homeowners insurance for your specific needs. But first, let’s take a closer look at dog bite liability coverage through home insurance.

What Is Dog Bite Liability Coverage?

An aspect of homeowners insurance, dog bite liability coverage provides the funds necessary to cover medical bills or lawsuits resulting from dog bites up to a certain limit. Depending on the severity of the bite, both medical and legal expenses resulting from aggressive or overly playful dogs can be extremely pricey.

Quick Stats about Dogs and Dog Bites:

  • In recent years, the average cost per dog bite claim in the US was $49,025.
  • This year, a reported 63.4 million US households own a pet dog.
  • About 4.5 million people in the US suffer from dog bites each year.
  • More than 800,000 of those dog bite injuries need medical attention.
  • In 2021, 17,989 dog bite claims were filed in the US.
  • Dog bites are the most common liability claims under homeowners insurance, accounting for more than one-third of all liability claims.

Unfortunately, dog ownership isn’t always a walk in the park. Bites can and do happen, and pretty frequently at that. Your policy may cover incidents that happen when someone trespasses on your property, and even those that occur away from home. Understanding your dog bite liability coverage as both a homeowner and a dog owner is crucial, especially if you plan to host gatherings at your place.

Which Dog Breeds Are Restricted under Homeowners Insurance?

Dog bite liability coverage doesn’t work exactly the same in every state. Most states require homeowners insurance to exclude coverage for a specified list of dog breeds that have been deemed “dangerous” or “vicious.” However, currently there are four states, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania, that don’t allow insurance companies to discriminate coverage by breed.

Small, nippy dogs aren’t necessarily the breeds with coverage restrictions. Chihuahuas and cocker spaniels account for a high percentage of dog bites, but they’re not typically thought of as dangerous. Restricted/excluded dog breeds are pretty consistent from state to state. Up next, more on the exact breeds that may be restricted or excluded by home insurance.


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Homeowners Insurance and Dangerous Dogs

Nearly six percent of pet dogs in the US are classified as pit bulls. While homeowners insurance may exclude liability coverage for families that own pit bulls, they also may exclude other dogs believed to be aggressive, including the following breeds:

  • Akita
  • Alaskan
  • Chow
  • Doberman Pincher
  • German Shepherd
  • Malamute
  • Presa Canario
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Wolfdog

If you own one of these dog breeds, getting home insurance may be more of a challenge for you. Dog breeds that are composed of a mix of these breeds are also likely to be excluded or restricted. To better understand if your dog will be covered, you’ll need to double-check your specific state’s laws regarding dog breeds and insurance.

Who’s Responsible if Someone Gets Bitten by a Neighbor’s Dog on My Property?

In this type of situation, it’s all about who the dog belongs to. So, in this case, your neighbor would be held responsible. That being said, it’s possible to handle the matter civilly, without ever taking things to court. Your neighbor could offer to pay for the stranger’s injuries using their medical payments coverage and that could be the end of it. However, if the stranger wanted to sue them, that’s where things could get ugly.

There Are Three Types of Law That Hold Dog Owners Liable:

  1. Dog-bite statutes: You're liable for injuries or property damage that's caused by your dog, whether it was provoked or not.
  2. One-bite rule: You're responsible for any injuries or property damage caused by your dog if you knew the dog was likely to bite or attack. In this case, the neighbor has to prove that you knew the dog was dangerous.
  3. Negligence laws: You're liable if it's determined that your dog bit the neighbor as a result of your careless (negligent) care of the animals. 

The possibility of a dog bite occurring on your property is no small matter. Keep in mind that legal action can be filed against the owner of the dog, no matter where the bite took place. That's why having enough liability coverage before an incident ever occurs is critical.

What if My Dog Bites My Neighbor While We're in the Car?

If your dog decides to bite your neighbor while you're all in a car together, there's a chance your car insurance policy will cover the bite. It's also common that your homeowners policy will extend to your vehicle, so you may find your homeowners and your car insurance policyholders in a battle between who's in charge of incurring the loss. 

What if I, or My Neighbor with the Dog, Don’t Have Insurance?

You shouldn’t have to worry about touching your insurance (or lack thereof) in this scenario, since any resulting payments are going to come from the dog’s owner, not the property owner. It’s not your fault, in the eyes of any insurance company, if your neighbor’s dog wanders onto your property and bites someone or even if you invited your neighbor and their dog over to your house with other guests.

If your neighbor doesn’t have adequate liability coverage, they could end up having to pay any legal expenses out of their own pocket, which could get seriously expensive. However, one important detail that courts and insurance companies will consider is whether or not the dog was antagonized by the stranger who got bitten. If it’s decided that the stranger provoked your neighbor’s dog, your neighbor would not be held responsible for the injury.

What if a Stranger’s Dog Bites Me on My Neighbor’s Property?

The same answer applies here. The responsible party would still be the dog owner. Even if an incident occurs away from the dog owner’s home, their homeowners insurance still covers them. So, no matter who gets bitten on whose property, the fault will always fall to the dog owner unless the dog was unfairly provoked by the person who got bitten.

How Does a Dog Bite Affect Homeowners Insurance Rates?

A dog bite occurs in the United States every 75 seconds. Over 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites, and half of these are children. Many affected individuals will require treatment in an emergency room. The fifth most common reason for a child visiting an emergency room is a dog bite. 

While a dog bite can be serious, the fatality risk is extremely low. Fatalities are estimated at 16 per year. Insurance companies pay out about $882 million in dog bite-related claims every year. 

Every insurance company has different rules and regulations when it comes to insuring a family that owns a dog classified as an aggressive breed. Some cities, counties, and states are now enacting breed-specific laws banning the aforementioned breeds altogether, or holding owners to a higher standard of liability. But many insurance agencies still offer affordable homeowners insurance, along with other policy options, that will include coverage for your four-legged family member, no matter the breed.

Why Would I Need Dog Bite Liability Coverage?

You would need coverage to protect your wallet from any financial hit suffered in the aftermath of an incident involving your dog. Without the proper coverage, lawsuits from dog bites can be expensive to the point of driving the homeowner to bankruptcy. In certain states, incidents could also result in you being forced to give up your home.

No matter where you live, you’ll be held liable for an incident if you knew your dog had a tendency to get aggressive. Certain states, however, hold a dog owner liable even if they didn't know their dog got aggressive on occasion. Still, other states hold dog owners responsible if they “should have known” that aggressive behavior from their dog was a possibility.

Dog Owners Can Be Held Liable under One of Three Laws:

  • Dog-bite statutes: You as the dog owner are automatically responsible for injuries/property damage caused by your unprovoked dog.
  • One-bite rules: You as the dog owner are responsible for injuries caused by your dog if you knew they tended towards aggressive/biting behavior. In the event of a lawsuit, the person suing you must have proof that you knew this.
  • Negligence laws: You as the dog owner are responsible for injuries caused by your dog if you were negligent while handling it.

Regardless of whether or not your pet is known to be aggressive, it’s still necessary to have coverage. You never know when a guest will rub your dog the wrong way or catch them on a bad day and be met with a bite. Having liability coverage as a dog owner is a responsible way to protect yourself and your guests.

Does My Homeowners Insurance Policy Include Dog Bite Liability Coverage?

Typically, yes. But it depends on a few things. Homeowners insurance that covers dog bite liability tends to limit coverage somewhere between $100,000-$300,000. You’ll need to review your specific policy to be sure you’re covered, though.

The Following Factors Could Influence whether You Have Coverage:

  • The state you live in
  • Your dog’s breed
  • Your dog’s weight
  • Your insurance company

Not only do insurance companies take the dog’s breed into consideration, but also the weight of the animal. The coverage line becomes hazy for dogs that are heavier and of a breed that’s widely considered “dangerous,” even if yours is usually as sweet as can be. Ask your independent insurance agent to review your coverage with you. If you own a “high-risk” breed, you might choose to increase your coverage.

How Much Coverage Should I Have for My Dog?

On average, most agents recommend having an umbrella liability policy in addition to their homeowners liability coverage. An umbrella policy provides additional coverage beyond the limits of your homeowners policy should there be a covered incident. Umbrella policies extend your home insurance liability coverage to limits of $1 million or more, for a very affordable premium rate.

If My Dog Bites Someone More Than Once, Will I Lose My Coverage?

An insurance company may charge a higher premium or decide to drop the dog from the policy altogether after the first incident. Again, because most insurers ask about dog ownership during the initial application process, obtaining a new or renewal policy could prove difficult. Having your dog spayed or neutered, and enrolling them in behavioral classes are some of the best ways to prevent your dog from biting someone. 

How to Get Homeowners Insurance to Cover Your Pit Bull

If you own a dog on the aggressive breeds list, here are a few tips to help you obtain insurance to cover any dog-related incidents:

  • Check your policy first: Dust off your homeowners or renters insurance policy and check if there are any exclusions in the policy or attached by endorsement that are specific to the kind of dog you own. If there are no breed exclusions, check and make sure that dog bites that occur on and off your property are covered. A policy with a personal liability limit of $100,000 or more is a good idea. 
  • Shop around: Search online for companies that insure dangerous breeds. There are insurance agencies that specialize in insuring higher-risk dogs. You may also want to use online forums specifically for dog owners to see what insurance companies they use. 
  • Train and socialize your pet: The American Kennel Club offers a program called “The Canine Good Citizen Program" which teaches basic dog obedience skills, along with responsible pet ownership. This program has been recognized by many insurance companies as a way to get a discount on a homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy. Getting this certification may also be the only way some insurance companies will insure a family with an aggressive breed of dog for liability coverage.

It’s also important to socialize your pet with other animals and people. Exposing your dog to strangers, along with other dogs, is a crucial part of developing a safe family member. You may also consider finding a dog trainer to help you with this process.

More Tips to Get Your Dog Covered by Home Insurance

There are a few other tricks you can use to increase your likelihood of getting coverage for your dog under your home insurance policy. These include:

  • Spay/neuter Your Pet: Spaying or neutering your pet can decrease your chances of facing a dog bite lawsuit. 
  • Get an umbrella policy: Umbrella insurance is extra coverage meant to increase your liability limits and sometimes cover other things that a general homeowners policy doesn’t. If your homeowner’s policy does not cover dog bites or dogs of specific breeds, look for an insurance policy that will. A typical umbrella policy that covers dog bites will have a limit of $1 million.
  • Get canine liability insurance: Canine liability insurance, or pit bull insurance, may be available and could cover any damages your dog does to property, animals, or people. Dog liability insurance can cover the following:
    • Bodily injury to animals or people
    • Third-party property damage
    • Vet bills
    • Medical bills, including reconstructive surgery
    • Attorney’s fees
    • Income compensation for the injured parties

Nobody expects a dog bite to happen. Taking the proper precautions and having adequate insurance can make the difference between financial stability and financial ruin after a dog bite. 

What about Renters Insurance and Dog Bites?

Renters insurance typically covers dog bite liability the same way that home insurance does. Many policies exclude coverage for certain breeds typically considered to be more aggressive, which largely overlaps the exclusion list used by home insurance companies. But you can also work with your independent insurance agent to find a policy that will cover your specific dog breed. 

How to Find the Best Homeowners Insurance

In order to get the protection you need and deserve, you’ll want to work with a trusted expert. Independent insurance agents not only know where to find the best coverage and price, but also help to make sense of the fine print.

Consider your unique needs, then connect with an agent to help you take it from there. Have a list of your specific concerns and desires handy before you reach out, to help the process run even smoother.


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Our independent agents shop around to find you the best coverage.

Compare Homeowners Insurance Quotes with an Independent Insurance Agent

We all know how valuable your time is, so why spend it doing all the hard work yourself? From homeowners insurance policies to additional dog bite liability coverage, our expert independent insurance agents will help you determine what type of coverage makes the most sense for you.

Our independent insurance agents stay on top of the insurance industry and all the latest discounts so you don’t have to. That means they’ll help find the right coverage at the right price for you.

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