Oklahoma Pets Could Cause Problems For Owners, Insurance

Wednesday, February 18th 2015, 9:19 pm
By: News 9

Most of us treat our pets like a part of the family, but our seemingly perfect four legged friends could spell trouble for insurance companies.

There are 4.5 million people bitten by dogs each year and 885,000 of those bites are serious enough to require medical attention. The numbers have grown so much that most insurance companies are cracking down on coverage of certain dogs, and it's not just the ones you might think.

Karen Gardner has some dogs with unique personality traits: Gizmo, a 9-month-old Chihuahua-mix, is an obsessive licker, Jo-Jo, an 11-year-old Dachshund eats too much, and 16-year-old miniature pincher, Angel, isn't the most social, especially now that she has cancer.

"I've never have had them bite anything. They might scratch or lick you to death, but only because I don't clip their claws as much as I should," Gardner said.

Recently, Gardner tried to change companies for cheaper homeowner's insurance and one of them asked about her dogs.

Dog Owners' Liability

"I said, I have three dogs, he goes, 'what are they?' I said a mini-pin, a weenie-dog and a mix breed," she said.

The insurance company denied her due to the breed of her dogs.

"I laughed. I couldn't believe it. I was like, 'you're not going to believe why we can't get insurance through this guy,' and my husband was like, 'our dogs,' and I'm like, 'ya,'" Gardner said.

News 9 contacted the major insurance companies in our region and found that many are tightening up their policies regarding dogs.

Research from the Insurance Information Institute show dog bites make up a third of all homeowner's insurance liability claim dollars in 2013, costing more than $483 million.

Oklahoma Statute On Dangerous Dogs

The average cost per claim, nationally, increased 45 percent since 2003. For many insurers, the list of potentially vicious dog breeds goes far beyond just pit bulls and Dobermans.

Banned breeds include Akitas, Alaskan malamutes, chows, Rottweilers, huskies, German shepherds and more. For AAA Insurance, some of the full breed dogs mean an automatic denial of coverage, even if you have a breed as lovable as a dachshund.

"Any dog, no matter what breed, if they have a history of dog bites, particularly claims related to a dog bite liability claim, they would be unacceptable," said Russ Iden with AAA Insurance.

Preventing Dog Bites

Jim Campos with State Farm, on the other hand, said the company has a non-discrimination policy for dog breeds.

"We have absorbed that risk into our rate models. We know what that risk is and understand it and we're comfortable with it," he said.

Adopting a dog from a shelter can bring another concern, especially because you don't always know what you're getting, and if a vet deems your dog is a dominant vicious breed, you could have a problem with your insurance company. Gardner decided to stay with her original insurance company even though they had increased their prices.

"It went up a little bit, but the difference, to be able to keep my animals, is ok," she said.

It wasn't just Gardner News 9 heard from. One woman was denied because of a Boston terrier. All insurance companies are different, so make sure to do your research, but for some, even a lab with any bite history could be an automatic denial from some companies.