Homeowners and renters insurance usually cover dog bites, but some companies exclude pit bulls

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  • Homeowners and renters insurance generally cover dog bites under personal liability coverage.
  • Some insurance companies exclude large dogs and certain dog breeds, like pit bulls, from this coverage.
  • If you have a pit bull, you may be able to get an umbrella policy or canine liability insurance.
  • Be sure to inform your insurance provider that you own or plan to own a pit bull; failure to do so could result in them denying a claim down the road.
  • See Business Insider's picks for the best homeowners and renters insurance companies.

It is said that dogs are man's best friend. Unfortunately, sometimes dogs bite. Approximately 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs yearly and the average cost of a dog bite claim is $44,760, according to the Insurance Information Institute. 

Homeowners and renters insurance usually cover dog bites. However, large dogs and certain breeds are not covered, like pit bulls. If you have a pit bull (a dog with bull terrier heritage), you need to inform your agent and see if an optional umbrella policy will cover your dog. Otherwise, you will need to purchase canine liability insurance.

Does homeowners or renters insurance cover pit bulls?

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, dog bites are covered under your policy's personal liability coverage. However, some homeowners and renters insurance companies will not offer coverage based on the size and breed of the dog, especially large dogs and breeds considered to be aggressive. Pit bulls usually top the list of dog breeds excluded from policies.

You should inform your agent if you have a pit bull to make sure you are covered in case of a dog bite. Failure to notify your insurance company of your breed type can result in denying your claim — in which case you would be personally responsible for costs.

The top 10 dog breeds most likely to be excluded from insurance coverage

Some insurance companies exclude large dogs and certain breeds from liability coverage, like pit bulls. Dogs known to be aggressive, trained attack dogs, unneutered male dogs, and dogs with a history of biting are usually excluded, according to American Family Insurance.

Everquote surveyed insurance companies and found these are the top 10 breeds most likely to be excluded from insurance policies:

  1. Pit bull
  2. Rottweiler
  3. Chow chow
  4. Presa Canario
  5. Akita
  6. Doberman Pinscher
  7. Wolf hybrids
  8. Mastiff
  9. Wolf
  10. German Shepherd

An umbrella policy can offer coverage if you have a pit bull

American Family notes that even if you have an excluded breed, you may be able to get coverage from an umbrella liability policy. An umbrella policy is additional liability coverage that's available as an add-on rider to your homeowners or renters insurance. 

The cost varies by insurance provider and is based on the additional coverage amount you select. Because pit bulls are generally excluded breeds, your premium may be more expensive than someone who doesn't have an excluded breed or large dog.

Canine liability insurance is an option if you have a pit bull

Canine liability insurance, which offers coverage if your dog bites or attacks someone, is another option if you have a pit bull and cannot get an umbrella policy. It is separate policy that is helpful if your homeowners or renters insurance doesn't offer coverage for your breed. The cost varies based on the breed of your dog, size, your location, and whether your dog has bitten or attacked someone in the past. Other price factors include if your dog is properly vaccinated and if your dog has been previously deemed a "dangerous dog" by animal control.

It's not very common, but the following companies offer canine liability insurance:

  1. X Insurance
  2. Dean Insurance
  3. Einhorn Insurance
  4. Evolution Insurance Brokers 

If you have a pit bull or excluded breed, you should shop around online and get quote comparisons. Be sure to inform the insurance company that you have a pit bull. If you are considering a pit bull as a pet and already have homeowners or renters insurance, contact your agent to see if an umbrella policy will offer coverage. If not, you will need to purchase canine liability insurance.

Ronda Lee is an associate editor for insurance at Personal Finance Insider covering life, auto, homeowners, and renters insurance for consumers. She is also a licensed attorney who practiced litigation and insurance defense.

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