Hats off to all of our fellow dog owners out there, and those of us that would do just about anything for our beloved furry companions. That includes waking up at hours when we’d much rather sleep in, cleaning up messes at the most inconvenient of times, and building up a tolerance for stubborn dog hair in our wardrobes and furniture—no judgement, we get it!
We do it all out of love. And it’s important to know how our pets factor into our home insurance policies, so we wanted to answer the questions you really want to ask.
How are dogs and home insurance related?
Most commonly, when dog owners think of insurance they are typically thinking about health-centered pet insurance. However, your dog is legally considered your “property” that can, unfortunately, come with a fair amount of liability exposure if you’re not careful.
For that reason dog bites usually fall under the purview of your personal liability insurance, which is really a part of your home insurance policy.
It’s because of this liability exposure that makes it important to advise your insurance broker or company of the fact that you have a dog. You may want to take a closer look at your liability coverage limits to understand what exactly is covered in your policy. You might need higher limits to cover the legal costs if your dog bites someone.
The Ontario Dog Owner’s Liability Act specifies that as the dog owner you are “strictly responsible” for all acts of your dog, even if you’re unaware of an incident or tried to prevent the incident from occurring at the time.
Either way, if your dog injures someone, that person may be eligible to collect compensation for:
- Medical bills.
- Pain and suffering.
- Loss of income.
- Property damage.
That’s why it can get a little risky to own dogs not covered by insurance, especially if you’ve bought a particularly aggressive breed.
Dog breeds that might not be covered by insurance
Wherever you fall on the debate about dog breeds, some may be considered too aggressive for certain insurance companies on the market. Always double-check your policy if you have (or are thinking about getting) one of these breeds:
- Pit Bulls.
- Staffordshire Terriers.
- German Shepherds.
If you have one of the dog breeds that homeowners insurance won’t cover, then it may be time to find a policy that does (and we can help you with that).
Ontario, dog bites, and the law
According to the Dog Owners’ Liability Act of 1990, owners are strictly responsible for the actions of their dogs. That means owners will need to bear full financial responsibility if their dogs cause injury or damage to others.
Most of Canada upholds the “one bite rule,” which means that you and your dog could be let off the hook for a bite that came out of nowhere, or if the dog has no history of biting or being aggressive.
You also need to consider these things in any situation involving dog bites:
- Was the dog provoked?
- Did the dog actively try to avoid the other person or animal before the bite?
- Was the dog protecting the owner or the person with it?
- Is the dog considered a dangerous breed?
- Was dog on a leash, or given freedom to roam?
- Was the dog on the owner’s property, or did the bite occur on another property?
It’s important to understand these mitigating factors because your liability for the dog’s actions can extend to the person supervising the dog at the time, including:
- Dog walkers.
- Dog sitters or kennel owners (without waiver forms).
- Babysitters where a dog happens to be present.
Tips to keep everyone safe
Here are a few things we can keep in mind to help reduce the chances of an unwanted situation happening between our dogs and others:
- Never leave a child alone with a dog, especially a baby.
- Avoid petting dogs that are not yours. We know it’s tempting!
- Don’t give treats to unfamiliar dogs.
- Teach children how to play gently with dogs, as well as how to approach dogs in a non-confrontational manner.
- Do not encourage your dog to play aggressively.
- Keep your dog on a leash when taking them for a walk. Always.
- Socialize your dog immediately and start training for your dog just as early. You really cannot start too soon.
- Remove your dog from the situation if it snarls, bears its teeth, or barks heavily.
- Generally just avoid situations you know could make your dog uncomfortable or anxious.
Get a fresh home insurance quote in just 3 minutes, including your furry friend. It could make a big difference in your coverage and peace of mind!