In 2016, the number of dog bite-related insurance claims continued rising. Over 40% of U.S. households now own a dog. The homeowner’s insurance industry is certainly feeling the impact, as an estimated 20% of claims are related to dog bites. It appears that the prevalence of incidents indicates that pet owners are not properly training, controlling, or supervising their canines when they relate with unfamiliar people and children. Claims topped $600 million for the year, and an analysis of the data shows that both the frequency of occurrence and cost of each incident are rising. In 2003, the total amount of claims was approximately $324 million, and the per-claim average was $19,000. In 2016, these same totals were up to $600 million and $33,000.
According to the CDC, there are over 4 million dog bite incidents annually, although the majority lead to trivial injuries or do not require the filing of a claim. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old are most likely to be involved because they tend to be less cautious around animals. Educating children about the types of actions that make dogs feel that they need to defend themselves is critical. When dogs and children play together, they should be appropriately supervised to assess their interaction.
Many insurance providers have decided to “bite back” by denying coverage to those possessing certain aggressive breeds. Some people, however, claim that the tendency to be dangerous is determined by the owner, rather than the breed of the animal. Insurers often will exclude dog-related claims from policy coverage or simply not accept renewals of coverage from these homeowners. Either way, this liability can definitely drive up overall premium costs.
Denver’s Ordinances Regarding Dog Attacks
Colorado statute addresses the topic; however, municipalities have some latitude to implement their own city ordinances. In the city and county of Denver, the following rules are maintained for dog owners:
- Owners may not permit dogs to harm people or other domestic animals
- An affirmative defense applies when upon the property of the owner if each entry is marked with a sign with letters over 2 inches in height warning of the dog’s presence
- Another affirmative defense exists in instances where a dog attacks an individual engaged in an act of violence, theft, or robbery upon the owner’s property
- Dogs acting in defense of their owners from physical assault are exempt
- Dogs under the control of law enforcement are exempt while on duty
The ordinance has a classification known as a “dangerous dog”, which is a dog that has previously attacked a human or domestic animal without provocation. A dangerous dog must remain safely confined on the premises. When a dangerous dog is off of their property, it must be safely restrained by a leash and a muzzle.