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By Juliana Weiss-Roessler

You would probably never think of your beloved dog as a liability, but unfortunately, that’s exactly how some homeowners associations and apartment complexes view dogs.

If you’re buying a home, you may discover that your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover dog bites, and if you’re looking for an apartment, townhouse, or condo to rent, you may find the landlord turning you away if you can’t show that you have insurance coverage for your dog.

Why would I need dog liability insurance?

There are several reasons why you, as a pack leader, might need to take out a canine liability insurance policy.

One of the most common reasons is because most major insurance companies have a list of so-called “dangerous” dogs that they won’t cover in their homeowners insurance, even if the dog has no bite history. These “dangerous dog” lists commonly include breeds like pit bulls, Staffordshire terriers, Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, German shepherds, Alaskan huskies, and wolf hybrids.

You might know that your dog is a gentle giant with no history of aggression, but if they belong to a breed that’s been deemed dangerous, you won’t be able to get coverage from your homeowners or renters insurance.

You may also need dog liability insurance if your dog has bitten someone before. All dogs have the potential to bite if they feel threatened or scared. Your pup may have nipped at a neighbor if the neighbor started roughhousing with them in a way they didn’t like, or she may have bitten one of your friends who got too close when she had a litter of puppies.

Even if your dog has never bitten anyone, if they have gotten rambunctious and knocked someone over, they may be branded as having a history of aggression.

Unfortunately, most homeowners or renters insurance companies will not take specific circumstances into account and will refuse coverage to any owner whose dog has a bite or aggression history, no matter what the breed.

How do I get dog liability insurance?

Several brokers and insurance companies in the United States currently offer canine liability insurance, so if you’re being required to carry this type of insurance by your county, apartment complex, or homeowners association, you should look for a company that is licensed to sell insurance in your state.

Take the time to do your research and read over policies carefully to make sure there aren’t any problematic exclusions. Some companies will only offer coverage for your dog when she is on your property, so if the two of you are walking around the neighborhood or playing at the dog park when the worst happens, you’ll have to pay for any damages out of pocket.

Premiums vary from company to company, with some organizations offering policies that start as low as $75 a year and others that go up to $1,000 (depending on the deductible, the dog breed, and any bite history). Some companies offer specific policies for individual dogs, so you may be able to negotiate a lower price if you can show your dog has no history of biting or aggression. Providing proof of obedience training or other specialized training may also help lower your rates.

Although you might hate the idea that your dog needs liability insurance just because other people think he or she is potentially dangerous, it’s better to pay for the coverage than to face paying for injuries out-of-pocket or becoming separated from your canine friend due to housing restrictions.

Find the right policy, and rest easy knowing that you and your dog can stay together.

Have you ever being sued for your dog’s behavior? Tell us all about it in the comments.

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