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What does pet liability insurance cover?

Daniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent for 15 Years

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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pet liability insuranceThe bond between pet and owner is strong. Pets are generally devoted to their owners and will protect them at all costs. Unfortunately, sometimes pets protect their owners when there isn’t a real threat. According to, at least 4.5 million Americans are bit each year by dogs, with family members and friends those most likely to be bit. The website states that liability payments are approximately $5 billion annually.

While the pet gets blamed for accidents or injuries as a result of their behavior, it’s not always the pet’s fault. Many people buy or adopt a dog, but fail to provide the proper behavioral training. Without training, the dog will do “what comes naturally,” often with negative results. In addition, more families are bringing in dogs for security, based on the reputation of the breed.

Again, the dog needs to be trained to be a “security” dog. If an incident should occur, the dog may not be to blame. The owner is responsible for any damages or liability as a result. Use our FREE comparison tool to compare pet liability insurance. Enter your ZIP code now!

Who Pays?

Most pet owners believe their homeowners or renters insurance will pay for any liability or medical expenses incurred as a result of someone being injured by a family pet. Since the early 1990’s, however, more and more insurers are increasing premiums for pet owners. Some insurers are excluding coverage entirely for any liability incurred as a result of an incident with a pet. Read this for more information on how homeowners insurance works.

In light of this growing trend, many companies are now offering pet liability coverage.

While there are no laws that force owners to get coverage, some renters or homeowners policies exclude pet related injuries entirely or those caused by certain breeds.

Not telling your insurer isn’t a good idea either. If the insurer finds out you have a dangerous pet, they can cancel your policy or not cover the loss. Being upfront is the best idea.

Pet liability coverage is often thought of as “dog bite” insurance. Because “every owner is exposed to potential liability for dog bites and other canine-inflicted injuries” (, owners should check with their agent regarding coverage. Nearly one-third of all claims made on homeowners or renters insurance are related to dog bites.

What’s Considered Dangerous?

Owners of the following types of pets should give serious consideration to obtaining pet liability insurance:

  • Snakes
  • Monkeys
  • Potbellied Pigs
  • Pit Bulls
  • Rottweilers
  • Chow Chows
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherds
  • Akitas/Siberian Huskies
  • Staffordshire Terriers
  • Wolf Hybrids

While mixed breeds are usually considered more well-mannered by pet professionals, insurers often exclude dogs with any of the above breeds mixed into their lineage. Enter your ZIP code for FREE pet insurance quotes!

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Liability Approaches

States generally have one of three (3) approaches to legal liability regarding a pet owner’s responsibility should a pet be responsible for another’s injury. These are:buy pet liability insurance

  • Automatic Responsibility. Owners are assumed to be responsible regardless of the situation. However, the courts will consider whether the animal was provoked while reviewing the case.
  • One Bite Rule. Owners are given a pass the first time the animal bites.
  • Owner Negligence. Owners do not act in a responsible manner while controlling their pets.

Policies can be written to specifically cover injuries due to bites on an owner’s property. Amounts can be written for $100,000 per incident up to a maximum of $1,000,000. Owners need to be aware that while the coverage pays the liability, it does not absolve them of legal responsibility.

Premiums for pet liability coverage are generally minimal compared to the lost of paying for a loss out of pocket. According to, premiums are generally $100 – $200 annually. When covering dogs, premiums are often rated based on the breed and the dog’s history. If the dog has a history of aggressive behavior, the premium could be higher. Agents who specialize in pet liability coverage often visit the home to see the pet(s) in person. They may also contact the vet to get additional history on the pet.

Pet liability insurance will not only provide protection on your own property, but it also provides protection for damage incurred to a neighbor’s yard or fencing.

Should your dog jump the fence and dig in the neighbor’s yard, you’ll be covered. Policies will also replace clothing or glasses damaged as well as other property (i.e., toys) and any medical expenses as a result of an injury.

Policies can cover a set number of bites or events or pay a specified amount per incident. States can require specific coverage based on the animal or breed. It is helpful to remember that not all claims will be incurred because of a bite. Even the most well trained dog can jump on an unsuspecting visitor causing them to fall and get hurt. Pet liability insurance covers these and other types of claims as well.

What’s Needed for Coverage

To ensure that you get and keep your pet liability coverage, owners need to keep the following in mind:

  • Obedience training certificatefind pet liability insurance
  • Fenced and/or secured area outside the home
  • Current license
  • Neutered males or spayed females
  • Vaccinations kept current
  • Always keep your pet on a leash when not in the yard

While most pets are as good natured as their owners, even the best pet can cause an accident or injury. Most dogs aren’t vicious, but they are territorial. If they perceive a threat to their pack or territory, they will defend it. Purchasing pet liability insurance is a great way to protect man’s best friend.

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