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Where can I get "vicious dog insurance"?

Feb. 1, 2007

I recently learned from a local news program that the state of Ohio requires "vicious dog insurance" for any dog that is at least 10 percent pit bull. I have a mixed breed dog that likely contains some pit bull. I've asked around, but no one seems to offer this type of insurance, though it's a requirement by law. Do you know of any companies that actually offer this insurance, which is supposedly separate from homeowners insurance?

Holly, Ohio

Dear Holly,

 I spoke with both the Ohio Department of Insurance and the Department of Agriculture. Neither has heard of the 10 percent rule. However, a spokesperson at the Department of Agriculture explained that, in Ohio, the county dog wardens are charged with enforcing the "vicious dog" regulation. You should check with your county warden to see if any local laws impose the 10 percent rule.

Ohio code, section 955.22 does state that, "No owner, keeper, or harborer of a vicious dog shall fail to obtain liability insurance with an insurer authorized to write liability insurance in this state providing coverage in each occurrence, subject to a limit, exclusive of interest and costs, of not less than $50,000 dollars because of damage or bodily injury to, or death of, a person caused by the vicious dog."

In section 11, the code defines "vicious dog" as meeting any of the following criteria: (i) Has killed or caused serious injury to any person. (ii) Has caused injury, other than killing or serious injury, to any person, or has killed another dog. (iii) Belongs to a breed that is commonly known as a pit bull dog. The ownership, keeping, or harboring of such a breed of dog shall be evidence of the ownership, keeping, or harboring of a vicious dog.

Finally, on the issue of getting insurance, dog bite liability coverage is part of a homeowners insurance policy. If your dog is indeed considered to be a pit bull, you should be able to get the required $50,000 liability clause as part of your homeowners policy. The problem, of course, is that many insurance companies shy away from insuring homeowners with certain breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls. We have several stories on the issue including Home insurance for dog lovers.

You may be able to get insurance by proving that your pet is not "vicious" and wouldn't go around biting people, or by agreeing to certain measures that would prevent the dogs from harming anyone, including obedience training, having your dogs spayed or neutered, and erecting a fence around your property. Finally, you could end up finding a homeowners policy that is more expensive, but one that still covers your dog.

I suggest that you contact the Independent Insurance Agents of America to find an independent insurance agent in your area. Tell them your story, and your preferred solution and they can look into finding a homeowners policy for you. Their telephone number is (800) 221-7917.

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Disclaimer: We are journalists, not financial planners or insurance brokers. Nothing we say should be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide other financial or legal advice.

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