In the time it takes you to read this article approximately three Canadians will be bitten by dogs. In fact, the Humane Society of Canada estimates that a dog bite happens every minute in Canada, amounting to more than 500,000 bites a year.
As a result, insurance companies pay out millions of dollars in liability claims annually. While the Insurance Bureau of Canada doesn’t track dog-related claims, one insurance company reported that dog bite incidents were on the rise during the enactment of the stay-at-home orders in March 2020 — possibly coinciding with the spike in “pandemic pets.”
With an estimated three million pets joining Canadian homes during the pandemic, primarily cats and dogs, it’s crucial for homeowners to understand the possible insurance implications their animals pose.
Here’s how to ensure your dog is protected under your home insurance policy, and how to help prevent dog bites from happening in the first place.
Does home insurance cover dogs?
Dogs are considered their owner’s property, meaning the owner is liable if the dog bites or attacks someone (not strictly in the home, but almost anywhere).
Typically, you would be protected under your home insurance policy, but it is prudent that you speak with your insurance provider first to ensure you are protected. Certain breeds, for example, may not be covered under your home or tenant’s insurance policy — or it may be required that you notify your insurance provider of the dog breed to be insured. Every insurance company is different. Some insure all breeds, while others have exemptions.
Some breeds that may not be covered include:
- Pit Bulls
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- German Shepherds
- Siberian Huskies
Bear in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. It’s always best to check with your provider even if your dog is friendly and has never bitten anyone before. If your insurance company does not cover your specific breed, compare quotes at InsuranceHotline.com to find the coverage you need. Don’t wait to find out after the fact — it could be costly.
What to do if your dog bites someone
First, make sure the injured person is okay, and remove the dog from the situation as soon as possible. Most Canadian citizens have medical coverage through their provincial healthcare provider, but there may be additional losses related to the incident that require compensation, such as if the victim is rendered unable to work for an extended. Your home insurance provider would need to be involved in these situations, especially if the victim involves a lawyer.
Regardless, if your dog bites or attacks someone it doesn’t hurt to phone your insurance company to find out what they recommend. They are experienced with these types of claims and can point you in the right direction.
Related Read: 5 things that could void your home insurance
What does your insurance cover
If your dog injures someone, that person may be eligible to collect compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and property damage. Typically, home insurance policies protect you for liability up to a certain amount. Standard policies offer $1 million in liability coverage; however, you may wish to discuss increasing that amount with your insurance provider if you have a dog.
Dog owners can be held liable for injuries
Some provinces have additional legislation outlining who is responsible for a dog.
For example, Ontario’s Dog Owners’ Liability Act specifies that “the owner of a dog is liable for damages resulting from a bite or attack by the dog on another person or domestic animal.” That means no matter the degree of negligence on behalf of the owner, they are liable for the incident. Any damages awarded, however, are in proportion to the fault. Even if the owner was unaware of the incident or tried to prevent the incident, he or she is still responsible for any injuries sustained.
“Owner” in this sense may refer to the person possessing the dog, someone harbouring the dog (while this is vague in the legislation, several personal injury lawyer websites suggest responsibility can fall on someone babysitting a dog that injures someone while under their care), or, in the case of the owner being a minor, the person responsible for that minor.
Familiarize yourself with your province’s dog legislation, if applicable, as this may affect your insurance coverage.
Tips for preventing dog bites
Children are especially susceptible to dog bites, so it’s important to take steps to prevent them. Here’s how to thwart your dog from biting or attacking someone.
- Never leave a child alone with a dog
- Even more important, never leave a baby (especially newborns) alone with a dog
- Avoid petting dogs that are not yours, even if it is tempting
- Do not give unfamiliar dogs treats
- 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
- Consider obedience or socialization training for your dog
- If your dog exhibits signs of aggression, such as snarling or heavy barking, remove your dog from the situation
- Do not involve your dog in situations you know make them uncomfortable or anxious as this may provoke aggression
Remember, all breeds — no matter what size or personality type — have the capacity to inflict harm on people. You never know when a dog is going to bite. Protect yourself by speaking with your insurance provider. They can answer any questions about dogs and your home insurance and ensure you have enough coverage.
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