When you told your friends about your new high-energy, dangerously smart German Shepherd puppy, they may have joked about expecting an increase in your homeowners insurance (HOI).
They’re actually not far off. However, the issue is not that your German Shepherd can chew or break things in your house. So, how does getting a German Shepherd affect HOI?
German Shepherds are classified as dog-bite liability risks by many insurers, so they can increase homeowners insurance. You may have to waive the insurer’s responsibility for any dog-bite claim and take out additional pet liability cover. You may also be refused coverage or renewed cover.
Most HOI policies cover you against loss or damage to your actual house and your contents. They also cover any legal fees or medical expenses involved if someone (excluding the people who live there) gets hurt on your property.
This is where the issue of German Shepherds and HOI comes in. The issue has to do with liability.
Why Do German Shepherds Affect Homeowners Insurance?
Insurance companies take on risk in return for payment, gambling on the fact that you will pay monthly (or yearly, depending on how your insurance is set up) for an eventuality that may never happen.
The higher the likelihood of this risk being realized, the higher the cost of your insurance.
As mentioned, most HOI covers expenses associated with someone getting injured while they are on your property. Accidents happen, and people sue.
Sometimes it’s not a malicious pursuit of compensation; it’s merely a matter of they can’t afford the medical bills, and you are insured against this risk.
When you get a dog, you introduce a new way in which people can get hurt on your property – your dog can bite them. Any dog can bite, although not every dog will.
However, most insurance companies do not assess each individual dog to determine how friendly or gentle they are.
Instead, insurance companies have a list. This list has been compiled based on dog-bite statistics, and, unfortunately, it usually includes German Shepherds as a breed responsible for a significant percentage of these bites.
Each insurance company will have its own list, so you should look around for a company who has no problem with your German Shepherd.
Why Are German Shepherds Considered Such Bite-Risks?
Dogs are not inherently evil. They are at the mercy of nature and nurture, both of which humans interfere with, and the result is that certain breeds, like the German Shepherds, develop a reputation of being dangerous.
Some German Shepherds are deliberately bred to produce aggressive offspring. Some never receive socialization and training, and so they are socially unbalanced and may respond to situations inappropriately.
Other German Shepherds are deliberately trained so that all they know is a violent response. Often in this training, the dogs themselves are treated with violence. This aggravates the behavior as they associate people with abuse.
Furthermore, German Shepherds are extremely loyal and protective dogs, so if they believe their families are in danger, their response is to defend them. Sometimes, this protectiveness can lead to terrible accidents.
Another issue is not what prompts the biting but the level of damage that German Shepherds can inflict. A bit from a German Shepherd can cause serious injury. They are big, strong, and fast.
How Do German Shepherds Affect Homeowners Insurance?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, HOI policies typically cover $100,000-$300,000 for dog-bite-related liability claims, subject to the breed of the dog.
Certain insurance companies will look at each case and decide based on individual dogs. These companies will investigate all dogs, not just the breeds known for being more aggressive or having higher dog-bite statistics.
HOI service providers may decide to cover you for dog-bite liability at no increased cost. Then, if your German Shepherd bites someone, they will increase your premium by a certain amount.
You should check what this amount is before accepting the policy.
Alternatively, after an incident, your insurance company can decide that your risk now exceeds what they are willing to take on (in their eyes, your German Shepherd went from never having bitten anyone to having a history of biting), and they will refuse to renew your policy when it expires.
Insurance companies may provide you with full HOI cover, including dog-bite liability, but start you off with a higher premium.
If you are happy to pay this, bear in mind that they can still increase your premium further if there is an incident. Once again, they may also decide to cancel your policy altogether.
Some insurance companies will give you HOI cover, but on the condition that you sign a dog-bite liability waiver, releasing them from any responsibility should your German Shepherd bite someone while they are on your property.
Your proposed insurance service provider may offer you full HOI cover only on the basis that you also take out additional pet liability insurance at a further cost. Or they will give it to you only if you take your German Shepherd for specific training courses up to a certain level.
Some insurers will refuse to provide you with HOI cover if you own a German Shepherd, and if you get one while on cover, it can jeopardize the terms of your insurance.
You would do well to check your state laws. In some states, insurance companies are not allowed to charge you more or deny you cover on the basis of what breed of dog you own.
Should You Be Covered For Pet Liability?
Your German Shepherd would never bite someone. You believe this completely, and there is nothing wrong with that belief.
However, the whole point of insurance is having a contingency plan in place, just in case something unexpected happens.
You don’t expect your roof to cave in, but if ever it does, you’ll be glad of your HOI.
You will need to assess your finances and make your own decision, but below are some statistics and information regarding dog-bite liability.
Insurance liability statistics, according to the Insurance Information Institute:
- In 2019, approximately $796.8 million was paid out by insurance companies in America to cover the costs related to dog-bites. This figure was 145.8% higher than that recorded in 2003 and increased by 18.1% between 2018 and 2019.
- This $796.8 million was incurred through 17,802 individual claims.
- The average cost per claim was $44,760 in 2019, a 14.7% increase compared to 2018.
Individual states will have their own legislation, so you will have to check what applies to you.
- In some states, you are liable if your dog bites someone, irrespective of their tendency to do so.
- Some states only hold you liable if you know or should have known that your dogs had a tendency to bite. Of course, there is a lot of ambiguity here, but typically, the victim would have to be able to prove you knew your dog had a proclivity to bite.
- There is also the potential of criminal liability connected to dog-bites.
Other Breeds That Increase Homeowners Insurance
You may be wondering what other breeds increase the cost or influence your ability to obtain HOI. In addition to German Shepherds, the following dogs are often on the insurance providers lists of risky breeds:
- Pit Bulls
- Doberman Pinschers
- Siberian Huskies
- Chow Chows
- Perro de Presca Canarios
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Staffordshire Terriers
- Wolf-dog hybrids
A Note On Third Party Property Damage And German Shepherds
Although the liability is mostly centered around the potential for physical injury to somebody, there is also the chance of your German Shepherd damaging a third party’s property.
This person can then claim against you, but your insurance will also pay for this if you are covered for pet liability.
German Shepherds are recorded as being involved in a significant number of reported dog-bite incidents.
As homeowner insurance covers medical and legal fees associated with injury to persons on your property, having a German Shepherd can increase your homeowners insurance.
Some insurance providers will even refuse to provide cover if you own a German Shepherd.
You can be charged a higher premium, or you may have to sign a waiver releasing the insurance service provider from any risk related to your German Shepherd.
Individual insurance companies may also require you to take out additional pet liability cover at a further cost.
It is not recommended to withhold your German Shepherd’s existence from your insurer. It can cause trouble down the line and does not promote a good relationship.
However, there are companies that do not impose any penalties or conditions to cover based on dog breed.