Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Oct 20, 2021

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When you’re researching insurance policies, chances are you’re going to come across a wide range of options. When you have property and personal assets to protect, there’s no shortage of insurers out there, regardless of what you need coverage for. Among the types of coverage out there, you can find protection if you own a dog.

Accidents unfortunately happen. And out of pocket costs for dog bites can end up being hefty, depending on the situation. If you’re a customer looking for coverage and you are also a dog owner, this information will be exceedingly helpful to you, and will make sure you’re among those insured homeowners who will leave your provider high customer satisfaction ratings.

This week, State Farm revealed the top ten states for dog bite claims, at least with respect to their company.

California topped the chart with 369 insurance claims and $11.3 million paid out.

Illinois was a close second with 317 insurance claims and $9.7 million paid, followed by Ohio in the third spot with 215 claims and $5.7 million paid.

Texas and Michigan closed out the top five with claims of 202 and 166, respectively, and $3.7 million and $5.2 million in claims paid out.

Overall, State Farm paid out more than $90 million as a result of the nearly 3,500 dog bite claims recorded in 2010.

State Farm says it doesn’t refuse insurance based on the breed of dog, but does require policyholders to answer questions about their dogs’ history on a homeowner insurance application. This may mean that they want to be aware of the fact that you own a dog, but they may not take that into consideration when determining what you pay.

While customer satisfaction comes from knowing that your provider is being transparent with you, sometimes you might have to directly ask them. A consumer in the dark can end up having a terrible time with their provider, which can lead to consumer complaints, which could then end up damaging the company’s reputation. It’s a two way street: the insurer needs to let the customer know what they’re going to use when figuring out premium rates.

Interestingly, there is one exception – in Ohio, the pit bull breed meets the definition of a ‘vicious’ dog, so the owners of pit bulls or any American Staffordshire terrier mix aren’t able to obtain State Farm homeowners insurance coverage for such breeds.

dog bites

What can you do to prevent dog bites?

Well, 60 percent of dog bite victims are children under 12, so one option would be to never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. That would be asking for accidents to happen. Especially because at a young age, children tend to have a slow grasp of what could potentially be harmful to themselves. This is why you’ll see a lot of videos online or hear stories about how a child learned the hard way not to pull a cat’s tail or yank on a dog’s ear.

If you’re a customer who has a dog and kids, teach your children about dog safety, including telling them to stay away from stranger’s dogs, and always ask permission before petting another owner’s dog. Never let your dog run up to strangers; your dog might be friendly until they meet someone that rubs their fur the wrong way. It’s better to be safe rather than sorry and stuck with a huge medical bill from the person your dog bit. Let people know that your dog can be defensive if they have a history of biting; even if they don’t this will alert strangers to the fact that they shouldn’t just run up to your dog.

Always keep your dog on a leash, even if you’re just walking around your neighborhood. If your dog doesn’t do well with other dogs, you should also keep them on lead even if you’re at a dog park. However, even if your four legged companion loves everything and everyone, getting into the mindset that something could happen isn’t meant to stress you out or keep your dog confined to the yard or your home. These are just suggestions on how to avoid a dog bite, which will keep your pup, other people, and your wallet safe.

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that insurance companies paid out more than $412 million in dog bite claims in 2009, so be sure to take measures to ensure your dog doesn’t end up a liability.

And yes, you have to tell your homeowners insurance company you have a dog, otherwise the misrepresentation could void your coverage. Don’t worry about the cost up front, because it’s going to be significantly less that whatever you’ll end up paying should your provider find out you lied about not owning a dog, and then the dog unfortunately nips at a neighbor.

Take this as seriously as you would practicing safe driving habits: doing so helps you net a cheap auto policy. Explaining that you have a dog is just like keeping a clean driving record; your insurer typically won’t look badly upon you in this case. This can help lead you towards a better customer experience.

So take a look at not only the largest insurers in your area, but some of the other insurers who will be able to work with you if you own a dog and you want to be prepared for anything.

Read more: Does homeowners insurance cover my dog?