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Insurance claims for dog-bite injuries reach record high in 2013

Pets hold a higher status in American households than perhaps anywhere else in the world. We love our companion animals – a love that is evident in the amount of money we spend pampering our pets. The result is often dogs and cats that are docile, friendly and very approachable.

It is not necessary to dote on one’s pets in order to make them happy or keep them docile. But there are pet owners out there who do not even treat their pets humanely. They either train them to be violent or neglect and abuse them in such a way that violence and aggression become the animal’s default response to humans. These are the dogs that are most likely to bite passersby, including children. Sadly, the number of serious dog bite incidents appears to be on the rise nationwide. About 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites each year, and about one-fifth of these are serious enough to require medical treatment.

According to data released by the Insurance Information Institute, there were a record number of dog-bite claims made in the U.S. last year. The 17,359 dog bites reported to insurers in 2013 accounted for one-third of the total costs of homeowner liability claims. Dog bites cost the insurance industry about $483.7 million annually, with a nationwide-average payout of nearly $28,000 per claim.

Although California did not have the average highest cost per claim in 2013, it did have the highest number of claims. Approximately 1,919 claims were made with an average payout of close to $34,000 each.

Contrary to popular belief, a dog’s breed has little to no bearing on his aggressiveness or the likelihood that he will bite. As we mentioned earlier, dog owners typically have the biggest influence on how their pets will behave. And even if a given dog is inexplicably aggressive, it is the owner’s responsibility to recognize this and to always keep the animal properly restrained when outside the home.

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. If you are a dog owner, please remember that you and your family may be in danger if your dog is allowed to behave too aggressively in or out of the home. And if you have small children, please keep an eye on them whenever they are around an unfamiliar dog. With vigilance, caution and humane treatment of animals, most dog bites can be prevented.

Source: Carrier Management, “Dogs Biting U.S. Insurers; Record Claims in 2013,” Craig Giammona, May 14, 2014

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