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Dog Breeds Usually Banned by Home Insurance Companies

Three dozen dog breeds can potentially invalidate your home insurance.

Key points

  • 30 dog breeds are frequently singled out as too risky for home insurance coverage, including Dobermans, Pitbulls, and Rottweilers.
  • There has been a steady rise in the cost of dog-related liability claims paid out by insurance companies.
  • Some claim that the banning of certain dog breeds by insurance companies carries an element of racial discrimination against their owners.
SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd.
Source: SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd.

It is an unfortunate fact that it may not be possible for you to have your favorite breed of dog and still be able to insure your home. Home insurance companies tend to try to avoid risks which might lead to costly payouts on behalf of their policyholders.

When it comes to dogs, the problem is that they often trigger expensive liability claims against their owners. Typically homeowners' insurance provides coverage for dog bites and other dog-related injuries, such as an injury resulting from a fall because a dog jumped up on someone.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost insurance companies $854 million in 2020. According to that same source, since 2003 there has been a 163% increase in the value of liability claims, as you can see on the table below.

SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd
Based on data from the Insurance Information Institute
Source: SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd

To cope with these rising costs, many home insurance companies have developed lists of banned dog breeds. This means that the insurer won't provide coverage if a customer owns that particular dog breed. Not all home insurers have official lists of restricted dog breeds, and some evaluate dog-bite problems on a case-by-case basis in deciding whether to offer insurance to a particular owner. But among the insurance companies that do ban certain breeds, the lists can be found within filings made by companies to various state insurance departments.

Forbes Advisor analyzed the banned dog breed list from 42 homeowner's insurance companies across the United States to find the most frequently banned breeds. These tend to include a number of dog breeds that have developed a negative image in the media — the so-called "bad breeds" that scare people, have a reputation for biting, and are large enough and active enough to knock children off of their bikes or skateboards. Having said that, most people will not be surprised to find that Rottweilers and Pitbulls are on the list, although I was surprised to find that Boxers and English Bulldogs were there as well, since neither breed has a popular reputation for being aggressive.

A listing of the 30 dog breeds that are most often banned by home insurance companies follows, with each breed accompanied by the percentage of the companies surveyed which specifically named that breed as uninsurable.

SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd
Based on data from Forbes Advisor
Source: SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd

For clarification, Pitbulls as defined by the insurance companies generally include Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pitbull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, or any combination of these breeds.

Other frequently banned dogs include mixed breeds involving the dogs listed in the table and guard dogs. Dogs with a prior record of biting a person or animal or displaying what an insurance company employee might feel is an aggressive temperament are usually also included in most lists.

These actions of the insurance companies have not gone unchallenged. For example, groups including the American Kennel Club, the American Dog Breeders Association, Best Friends Animal Society, and the Humane Society of the United States have issued a white paper, which has been sent to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, protesting these policies.

As part of their argument, they suggest that there may be some implicit racial biases on this list since there is an apparent relationship between dog breeds and the public perception of who owns them. Thus this report suggests that the media has clearly implied a strong correlation between ownership of Pitbulls, Rottweilers, and Doberman Pinschers and the Black community — in particular, criminal elements and gangs within the Black community. The groups that wrote this report suggest that such perceptions may have influenced the insurance companies' choices of breeds to ban.

Given the current status of this issue, and since it seems to me that it is not very likely that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners will do much to change current policies, at least in the short term, it appears that all the average person can do is to be sure to contact their home insurance company before bringing a dog into their household. If you find that you may face a loss of insurance coverage because of your dog breed choice, you can always shop around for a different insurer, or perhaps consider a different breed of dog as your pet. After all, the American Kennel Club alone recognizes 195 breeds of dog and there is bound to be one that is not on the banned list that can fulfill your needs for canine companionship.

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

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