Why Does Homeowners Insurance Exclude Certain Dog Breeds?

If you’re a dog lover, you probably look at your dog and think warm fuzzy thoughts. Your insurance company, on the other hand, probably sees danger signs.

This is especially true if the dog’s breed happens to be prohibited under homeowners insurance policies. Known by insurance companies as “excluded dog breeds,” “aggressive dog list,” “dangerous dogs list” or simply “bad dog list,” this collection of prohibited dogs consists of breeds that are widely considered to be a financial risk to insurers.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, claims related to injuries from dogs account for one-third of all homeowner liability dollars insurance companies pay out every year. In 2016, that figure was $602 million from more than 18,000 claims—an average of $33,000 per claim. That’s a lot of money.

This makes insurance companies wary of dogs that traditionally display a propensity for aggression, so homeowners whose dogs fall into that category will pay higher premiums. In some cases, depending on the homeowner’s location and the insurance company, it may even be impossible to obtain coverage.

The specific dog breeds prohibited by insurers vary from company to company, but at least five appear on every list. Note that not only pure-bred dogs are banned, but any mixed breeds as well:

  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman
  • Presa Canario
  • Chow Chow

Statistics show these are some of the most aggressive dogs around and have been the cause of many reported attacks—some of which are fatal. According to the Centre for Disease Control, dog attacks resulted in 279 human deaths in the U.S. over a 20-year period, and Pit Bulls and Rottweilers alone accounted for more than half of those deaths. In a separate long-term study that analyzed 658 documented deaths resulting from dog attacks, 53.5% were attributable to Pit Bulls.

Owners of these types of dogs may feel discriminated against. After all, every individual dog differs by not only personality but also, importantly, upbringing. Isn’t it unfair to ban an entire breed because of the bad behavior of a few?

One alternative could be to deny coverage or impose higher premiums based on the risk associated with a specific dog, rather than its breed. This would require insurance companies to assess a dog’s history of behavior, training and other personal criteria to determine if they are dangerous.

But this approach does not seem very tenable from an insurance perspective. Many dogs do not exhibit aggressive behavior until the day they attack, at which point it’s too late for the insurance company to refuse to pay out. In the absence of a more reliable method of predicting aggression, it appears that breed profiling is the only feasible option.

The insurance industry is in the business of evaluating risk, and all the facts about these five types of dogs suggest they pose a higher risk.


Written by: Frank Medina June 12, 2017

Frank Medina is owner of Frank Medina Insurance, which specializes in auto and homeowners insurance. 

Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week

Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week is April 17-21cyclone-2100663_1920

Madison, WI—Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel is advising Wisconsin residents to be prepared for severe weather season.

“Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week is a helpful reminder to check your plans to ensure your family’s safety and preparedness,” said Commissioner Nickel. “Confirm your insurance policies are updated and provide you with adequate coverage alleviating additional problems after a storm hits.”

Consumers should prepare ahead of time by making sure they have a comprehensive inventory of their personal property. See the Personal Property Home Inventory on OCI’s Web site at oci.wi.gov/Documents/Consumers/PI-224.pdf.

Your policy review should include all insurance coverage, not just a homeowner’s policy. Reviewing auto insurance policies will help determine if you are covered for storm damage to your vehicle. Consumers should also consider adding coverage for their living expenses if their homes become uninhabitable due to storm damage. Business owners should consider purchasing business interruption coverage to protect them if storm damage shuts down their business for an extended period of time.

Typical homeowner’s policies usually provide coverage for damage that is the result of severe weather such as damage from hail or high winds. An exception is that damage caused by flooding is typically not covered. For protection against floods, you must purchase a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Check with your insurance agent or insurance company about signing up for NFIP protection.

Damage resulting from sewer backup and sump pump problems is also rarely covered in homeowner’s policies but may be added through endorsements. Endorsements are added to insurance policies in order to provide additional coverage to the homeowner’s policy. OCI encourages consumers to carefully review all endorsements before they are added to a policy.

During Tornado and Severe Weather Awareness Week, Commissioner Nickel encourages consumers to work with their insurance agent to ensure their level of protection will result in adequate financial protection from losses resulting from severe storms and the coverage in place is suitable for the risks they face.

Commissioner Nickel suggests the following steps if your home is damaged by a storm:

  • Notify your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible to begin the insurance claim process.
  • Take photographs of the damage for the insurance company.
  • Separate damaged items from undamaged items.
  • Make any necessary repairs protecting yourself from further loss or damage as soon as it is safe.
  • Make a list of damaged items and keep all receipts that document the cost of the repairs or the replacement of damaged items.
  • Do not throw away furniture or expensive items damaged by the storm. Your insurance adjuster will want to see these.

Consumer publications such as Consumer’s Guide to Homeowner’s Insurance and Settling Property Insurance Claims are available on OCI’s Web site at oci.wi.gov and may also be ordered for free by calling 1-800-236-8517. More information on the National Flood Insurance Program may be found at fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.

Created by the Legislature in 1870, Wisconsin’s Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) was vested with broad powers to ensure the insurance industry responsibly and adequately met the insurance needs of Wisconsin citizens. Today, OCI’s mission is to lead the way in informing and protecting the public and responding to its insurance needs.