Aggressive Dogs and Your Insurance

Sidebar: Vicious dog breeds scare away insurers.

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A drunk stumbled through Claudine Cordray's kitchen door in Columbus, Ohio, and fell to his knees. Hearing his thud and groan, Sasha, her German Shepherd mix, scampered from the back of the house, eyed the intruder and bit him once in the head.

The intruder received 12 stitches. Cordray, a veterinarian, received notice her renter's insurance was being cancelled. The reason: In the eyes of the insurance carrier, Sasha was now deemed a dangerous dog.

"I was shocked beyond belief," Dr. Cordray said. "I even had to pay for the guy's medical bill, too. These days, it seems like unless someone has a gun pointed at your head, you, the dog owner, will pay even if your dog was provoked."

The bigger shock: Dr. Cordray's situation is common. Dog owners nationwide are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain homeowner's or renter's insurance. Or they must buy pricey liability policies. Homeowners who've had insurance policies for decades now receive cancellation notices because they own breeds deemed dangerous and prone to biting.

Helen Farone, of Berlin, Conn., owns Shepherd, Rottweiler and Doberman mixes. "One day, my agent tells me that my insurance company is dropping me because of my dogs," she said. "He checked around and was finally able to get me a new insurance carrier one week before my policy was to expire. I don't know what I would have done. You need homeowner's insurance to protect against break-ins or fires."

The increase in the number of reported dog bites and their associated costs have spurred insurance companies like Nationwide to no longer provide homeowner policies for owners of Pit Bulls, Dobermans and Rottweilers. "These breeds have been identified as vicious dogs," said spokesman Bob Cunningham. "It's a hard call because people love their pets, but unfortunately costs associated with dog bites are escalating." Industry-wide, dog bite claims average $12,000.

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