If you own a German Shepherd, your dog may or may not increase the cost of your homeowners insurance. It depends on several factors, including what state you’re in and which insurance company you’re using. The good news? Your rates may stay the same. The bad news? You may not be able to get coverage at all.
So, why is this so complicated? And how do you get affordable coverage?
We’ll explain why home insurance companies do what they do, and which ones are best for dog owners. We’ll also talk about alternative insurance options, and how you can keep your rates as low as possible.
Why Do Home Insurers Blacklist Certain Breeds?
Dog bites are extremely expensive claims for insurance companies. In the US, there are over 4.7 million dog bite injuries per year, and approximately 800,000 of those injuries required medical treatment. The average claim for a dog bite is $12,000. Altogether, these claims cost American insurance companies $250 million annually.
Because insurance companies only make money when they don’t have to pay for claims, many companies try to limit their liability by refusing to cover certain breeds that are perceived as high risk.
Which Breeds Are Blacklisted?
Different insurers refuse to insure different breeds, but there are a few breeds that are most commonly blacklisted.
- German Shepherds
- Labrador Retrievers
- Chow Chows
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Wolf Hybrids or Coyote Hybrids
Regardless of which breeds your insurer currently blacklists, they generally change their guidelines annually. These changes are in response to annual dog bite rates for a given breed. Your dog may be considered “safe” this year, only to land on your insurer’s blacklist the next year.
With German Shepherds and other common, large breeds, this can happen frequently. That’s because insurers typically count how many bites have happened for a particular breed in a particular year. Since there are going to be more bites from common breeds than from rare ones, friendly black labs end up getting lumped in with half-wolf hybrids.
Wait – Isn’t This Illegal?
In recent years, many dog owners have successfully gotten breed-specific bans overturned in court. However, these bans were city and county ordinances. The reason they’re typically ruled illegal is that they violate the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution.
However, the Equal Protection Clause only applies to the government. Since insurance companies are private businesses, they’re free to refuse coverage for almost any reason.
There are a few exceptions to this; Michigan and Pennsylvania both have state laws that ban blacklisting, so if you live in either of these states you’re good to go. While Massachusetts doesn’t ban blacklisting, the state’s FAIR insurance plan will provide coverage to homeowners with any breed of dog.
Which Insurers Don’t Blacklist?
The easiest way to get your dog insured is to choose a homeowners insurance company that doesn’t blacklist certain breeds. Amica, Fireman’s, State Farm, Chubb, Nationwide, Liberty Mutual, and the military’s USAA homeowners insurance will all cover any breed. As we’ve already mentioned, Massachusetts residents can also get coverage through the FAIR Plan.
That said, some of these companies may require a home visit by an insurance agent, or a certificate of graduation from obedience school.
You may also need to shop around for different insurance agents. Some individual agents are hesitant to cover certain breeds. Even if one agent declines to issue a policy, you may be able to get a policy from the same company through a different agent.
My Insurance Company Won’t Cover My Dog – What Can I Do?
We’ve already suggested a number of insurers that will cover German Shepherds, but let’s say that for some reason none of them will work for you. Maybe they don’t operate in your area, or charge high premiums for your breed. How do you keep your dog without putting yourself at risk?
There are a number of supplemental insurance policies that specifically cover dog bites. Called Canine Liability policies, they include the Federation of Insured Dog Owners, the American Kennel Club, and XInsurance.
While these programs all have their own requirements, they may require obedience training or a home visit. Still, since they’re specifically tailored to dog owners, you may be able to save money by taking out a separate animal liability policy.
I Rent – How Does This Affect Me?
Many landlords require their tenants to obtain renter’s insurance. If yours does, you’ll have similar options to homeowners. Since renter’s insurance covers your personal belongings and liability, and not the building — that’s covered by your landlord’s insurance — you’ll generally pay a lot less than you’d pay as a homeowner.
Even if your landlord doesn’t require you to have renter’s insurance, they may be hesitant to let certain breeds live in their building. In this case, it can be worth offering to take out renter’s insurance or an animal liability policy. If your landlord knows they won’t be liable for bites, they’ll be more likely to welcome your dog into the apartment.
Is There Any Way To Lower My Rates?
If you’re paying too much for liability coverage, ask your insurance agent if there’s anything you can do to get your rates down. Many companies will offer you a lower rate if your dog graduates obedience school, or if you obtain a Canine Good Citizen certification. These are easy ways to lower your rates.
Other methods can include special housing requirements like a crate or muzzle training.
How Do I Keep My Dog From Biting?
Of course, the best insurance policy is having a dog that doesn’t bite. This will keep you from losing coverage, and it’s the right thing to do. Here are a few tips for keeping your dog from biting:
- Spay or neuter your pet. Female dogs can act up when they’re in heat, while male dogs can be aggressive if they’re not neutered.
- Make sure your dog is well socialized. If you don’t often have guests, consider taking your dog to a local dog park. Not only is it good exercise, but it’s also a great way to get your dog used to being around people and other dogs.
- When your dog is outside, keep them inside a fence or on a leash. This will keep your neighbors safe, along with protecting your local postal worker.