Data from the Canadian Animal Health Institute reveals that there are over eight million dogs in Canada, and according to Association des médecins vétérinaires du Québec there are about one million in Québec. This number has been increasing over the past two decades as the population in the province has grown. So it really can be said that dog is man’s best friend (at least in Québec, anyway)!
While a dog’s companionship provides owners with many social and therapeutic benefits, it also carries a huge responsibility and has repercussions, particularly on home insurance .
Whether you’re an owner, co-owner, or tenant, you need to declare that you have a dog to ensure you’re covered by your home insurance in the event your dog causes property damage or bodily injury. What damage and injuries are covered by your insurer? Promutuel Insurance takes a look at the question and provides some advice to limit the risks of damage and injury caused by your dog.
Home insurance and dogs
Even if your pet is well trained and displays exemplary behaviour around you, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to control its actions every moment of the day and night. In that respect, your dog poses a risk to your home and may become a risk to public health or safety and, consequently, to your insurer. It’s therefore important to take out insurance that covers your home and civil liability so that you’re protected (in case your dog causes injury or damage to others).
When you buy your home insurance, it’s vitally important to mention that you own a dog. Failing to take this essential step could cost you big—your insurer could even go so far as to deny a claim when you need it.
Home insurance offers you protection that covers your property and civil liability. If your dog causes bodily injury or property damage to third parties, the damage will usually be covered by this insurance. However, it’s best to contact your insurance representative to ensure your insurance policy provides adequate coverage.
Types of damage caused by your dog and home insurance coverage
Knowing what your home insurance covers can help you avoid unpleasant surprises. Is damage caused by your dog covered?
Your home insurance policy may protect you against two types of damage caused by your pet:
- Damage to your property if you have a comprehensive policy
- The financial consequences of civil liability in the event of property damage or bodily injury to a third party
Damage to your property
Since there are several types of coverage, and eligibility criteria may vary from one insurer to another regarding pets, it’s best to contact your insurance representative to find out what coverage is available.
Civil liability in case of property damage to a third party
Does your dog attack your neighbour’s flower beds or damage their property? The liability portion of your home insurance could compensate the affected third party in the event of property damage.
Civil liability in case of bodily injury to a third party or to another pet
What happens if your dog bites the mail carrier or one of your visitors? As a dog owner, the risk of bites is undoubtedly one of your biggest fears. If your dog hurts someone or their pet, that person has the right to sue you in civil court. If you’re found responsible for the incident, you could be required to financially compensate your dog’s victim.
Thanks to the liability insurance included in your policy, your home insurance usually also covers bodily injury your dog causes to another person or their pet. If your dog bites or injures someone or causes injuries (e.g., the person your dog chases falls while trying to escape, whether at your home or elsewhere, your insurer could cover the financial consequences for this type of situation.
Warning: If you don’t take reasonable precautions to prevent your dog from biting a third party and injuring someone, you could face criminal negligence charges and have your claim denied. “Reasonable precautions” can refer to things such as putting your dog on a leash, fencing your property, and taking the measures recommended by the court or a veterinarian (wearing a muzzle, euthanasia, etc.).
Am I responsible for a dog in my care?
If you’re looking after the dog of a family member or friend, you may be responsible for any damage it causes while in your care. Make sure you’re familiar with the behaviour of the dog in question before agreeing to look after it and inform your insurer that the dog will be with you during this period.
Insurers may refuse to insure your home or might apply an exclusion for damage caused by your dog if the dog is considered to be “at risk.” Understand that the insurer does not cover your dog, just the damage it may cause. Generally speaking, a dog is said to be “at risk” if it has attacked, attempted to bite, or bitten a person without killing them. A dog is declared “dangerous” when it has killed or seriously injured a person or another animal or is a serious danger to the public. However, the criteria that determine the risk associated with a dog and the rules regarding at-risk and dangerous dogs vary from municipality to municipality.
In Montréal, potentially dangerous dogs fall into three categories: “at risk,” “potentially dangerous” (if an at-risk dog assessed by a specialist is a threat to the life of others), and “dangerous” (a dog that has fatally attacked a person or an at-risk dog declared dangerous by a specialist).
In Québec City, reference is mainly made to “potentially dangerous” dogs, i.e., dogs that pose a risk to public health or safety according to a veterinarian’s report or dogs that have bitten or attacked a person or pet and inflicted an injury.
Breeds considered to be at risk
Insurers may refuse to insure your home or might apply an exclusion for damage caused by your dog because of its breed. Breeds considered dangerous by insurers include Dobermans, Pit Bulls (American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers), Rottweilers, sled dogs, and all breeds crossed with any of these. If you have one of these breeds of dog, be sure to exercise extra caution and talk to your insurance representative.
A few things you can do to prevent your dog from causing damage or injury
While it’s impossible to predict and completely control your pet’s actions, taking the right precautions to reduce the risk of unfortunate incidents can help you protect yourself and avoid trouble. Here are a few tips that, if followed, may encourage your insurer to agree to insure your home, whether or not your dog is at risk:
- Training: Training your dog can give you better control over your companion. Trained dogs also tend to be more sociable with strangers and other pets.
- Leash: When you leave the house, walk your dog on a leash. Even if your dog is well trained, it may react unpredictably to a stressful, unfamiliar situation.
- Fenced lot: When shopping around for a place to rent or a house to buy, keep your pet’s needs in mind. Protect yourself from damage they might cause to your neighbours by having a fenced yard.
- Crate: When your dog is young or poorly trained, it can take advantage of your absence to do some serious damage. Put it in their crate when you leave the house.
My dog has caused damage or injury: How do I file a claim?
Despite taking precautions, you were unable to control your dog’s actions and it caused property damage or bodily injury. It’s time to make a claim.
The first step in making a claim is to notify your insurer as soon as possible after the incident. Also be aware that you are responsible for limiting damage or preventing it from getting worse. In the case of property damage, list the property that has been damaged or destroyed. If your dog has caused bodily injury to a third party, you must also notify the authorities as soon as possible.
Once you’ve filed your claim, let your insurer’s claims adjuster do the work. They’ll guide you through the process and inform you of the next steps.