When the bite is worse than the bark: Home insurance & your dog

Aug 8, 2013 2 minute read

When the bite is worse than the bark: Home insuran...

A lot of people use the warm summer months as a chance to get outside with their new puppy or dog. Whether it’s a long walk or a trip to the park, it can be exciting to watch your pet interact with the world around them. Before you let your dog play with other dogs or people, there are some important things you should know.

Someone in Canada suffers a dog bite every 60 seconds according to the Humane Society of Canada.  That’s over 525,000 people being bitten each year, most of whom are children. While most of those bites may be minor, very serious attacks still occur and result in serious physical and psychological trauma for victims.

Legislature in both Alberta and Ontario states a dog’s owner is responsible for injuries his or her dog inflicts on another person or animal. This means victims can seek damage compensation for medical costs, loss of income due to injury or destruction of property (dogs are considered to be their owners’ properties). Exceptions are made in cases where it can be proven the injured party or animal was provoking the attacking dog, resulting in an inevitable incident.

So how can you protect yourself as a dog owner? Make sure your insurance provider is aware of your four-legged family member since dog bites are generally covered by the dog owner’s home insurance policy. If the victim of an attack brings a personal liability suit against the dog owner, the owner can open a claim with their insurance company and receive coverage against the suit.

Most home and tenant insurance policies have at least $1 million worth of liability coverage. Depending on the breed, size and past behaviour of your dog, your local BrokerLink broker will discuss whether you should increase that amount or purchase an additional personal umbrella policy.

If your dog has been identified as a dangerous breed or has a history of attacks, your insurance company may not be willing to offer coverage or will increase your premiums. In these cases, your BrokerLink broker will help you shop the market to determine your options.

Of course, it’s best to ensure you and your dog avoid becoming involved in a legal liability case.  If your dog has had aggressive incidents in the past, here are some steps to reduce the risk of your dog biting:

  • Keep your dog on a leash when outside the home
  • Muzzle your dog in public
  • Keep your dog away from strangers or visitors who come to your home
  • Never leave your dog alone with nonfamily members or with small children
  • Avoid playing games, like tug of war, which encourage your dog’s aggressive tendencies
  • Get your dog spayed or neutered- this lessens aggressive tendencies and the likelihood of biting
  • Train your dog. Ask your veterinarian for the name of an experienced trainer and enrol your dog in obedience classes