Having a dog in your home provides companionship, protection and friendship—a person’s best friend. And while most dogs are friendly, loving members of the family, even normally docile dogs may bite when they are frightened or protecting their puppies, owners or food. “But never MY dog”…you say. The statistics may surprise you.
In the United States dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims paid out in 2009.* Health Canada estimates that 400,000 people are bitten by dogs in Canada each year (that is 45 dog bites per hour!), with British Columbia and Ontario reporting the largest number of dog bite cases. Animal bite liability varies across Canada but in British Columbia common law principles apply. In most cases, you are responsible for any injury claims if your beloved pet does bite someone—whether it is on your property or not.
Are you liable if your dog does not bite, but causes an injury by knocking someone over? Yes. All kinds of accidents and injuries can be caused by a dog on the run—even if they are just being playful. Friendly, non-aggressive dogs can cause a lot of damage while running at full speed. Even small dogs, leashed or not, can cause a tripping hazard on crowded streets or sidewalks. Dog owners are liable for any injuries their pets cause, even if it does not involve a bite.
The good news is that most standard homeowner, condo and tenant policies provide anywhere from $1 million to $2 million of dog bite liability coverage. However, many renters and condo owners are still left unprotected because they mistakenly rely on the insurance held by landlords or condo corporations. A personal tenant or condo policy is required to secure this necessary personal liability protection.
While it is clearly important to make sure you have liability protection, it is even more important to take the necessary steps to make sure that you and those around you are protected physically! So how can you keep Fido, Bowser, or Spot from biting or causing an injury in the first place? Here are a few tips:
- Consult with a professional (e.g. veterinarian, animal behaviourist, or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your circumstances.
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into a home with an infant or toddler
- Have your dog spayed or neutered. Studies show that dogs are three times more likely to bite if they are NOT neutered.
- Socialize your dog so it knows how to act with other people and animals.
- Always keep your dog on a leash while outside the confines of your property or designated off-leash areas. Be especially aware of your pet when on crowded streets or sidewalks.
- If your pet is hyper or excitable, pick less busy times to take him/her to areas, such as a dog park, where they will encounter other dogs or humans.
- Be especially aware of your dog’s behaviour when around more vulnerable people such as young children or seniors.
- Don’t allow children to disturb a dog that is eating or sleeping.
- Play non-aggressive games with your dog, such as “go fetch”. Playing aggressive games like “tug-of-war” can encourage inappropriate behaviour.
- Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact with a dog that appears threatening.
At Park Insurance, we offer our customers more than just insurance policies, we offer our customers insurance expertise. We encourage you to call or visit us with your insurance questions, we are here to help.