Dog bites cost homeowners half-billion dollars in insurance claims

May 27, 2015

Dog bites are taking a huge bite out of the pocketbooks of American homeowners. Last year, dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost property owners more than $530 million in insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The problem is particularly severe in New York State, which logged the third largest number of liability claims in 2014 -- and the highest average cost per claim. Nationwide, the average cost paid for dog bite claims was just over $32,000 last year. In New York, the average cost per claim exceeded $56,600.

Very often, the expenses soar as the result of long-term issues.

Credit iii.org

“People see more and more what the cost is for somebody who has to be rehabilitated, if their injuries are such that they can’t work anymore," said Loretta Worters, the institute's vice president of communications. "Those are all going to have an impact on what the settlements are going to be.”

New York trailed only California and Ohio when it came to the largest number of claims relating to dog bites. Worters told WBFO pet owners must be vigilant.

“The owner needs to understand that they have a responsibility to their family and to their neighbors how they socialize their dog and how they watch out for others.”

A pet owner who suspects that a dog is not socialized properly should consult with a veterinarian or animal behaviorist about proper training, she added.

Victoria Stilwell is a dog trainer, animal behavior expert and star of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” show. She explained what proper "socialization means" when it comes to a dog.

"If you’re getting a puppy, make sure the puppy is exposed to a lot of different environments, to a lot of different people, and a lot of different animals and other dogs at a young age," she suggested.

Put simply, said Stilwell, every dog needs a "good canine education." This includes helping the furry companion to feel more confident.

"Aren’t biting dogs confident?  Well not really.  No, because a confident dog has no need to bite.  It’s the unconfident ones, the insecure ones, that feel the need to defend themselves.”

Experts urge pet owners to use caution when exposing a dog to new situations in which the owner is unsure of the animal's response.

If a sincere effort is made to raise and socialize a dog correctly, Stilwell said the likelihood of a bite incident occurring is quite low.

“Every dog can be a great dog and every dog has the ability to bite, because that is their natural survival instinct.”