I have been reading worrying stories about fatal dog attacks in Britain – in particular those from the ‘XL Bully’ breed.
I am a dog owner myself – of a four-year-old lurcher, Max, who is a very sweet and gentle dog.
But it does seem like the issue of dogs biting people is very much on everyone’s minds.
I want to be responsible and prepare for the absolute worst-case scenario of Max ever biting anybody. Is it possible to get insurance to cover the cost of a dog bite? Via email
You decide: Dog insurance is not compulsory for most breeds, unlike car cover
Sam Barker of This is Money replies: The tragic recent dog attacks have certainly put the problem of aggressive dogs and irresponsible owners into the spotlight.
Home secretary Suella Braverman last week said the popular XL Bully breed could be banned after a dog attack in Birmingham.
While your own dog is among the vast majority of canines that are perfectly friendly, it cannot hurt to be prepared.
While the emotional impact of a dog bite cannot be insured against, the financial impact to the dog owner can be.
So the short answer to your question is yes, you can get insurance against the cost of your dog biting someone else – and in fact it is included as standard on 90 per cent of pet insurance deals.
This sort of insurance is called third party liability. In a pet insurance context this normally covers any compensation you have to pay if your dog attacks someone and a court finds you legally responsible.
It also pays out if your dog accidentally damages something outside your home, for example someone’s property.
Insurers tend to pay a maximum of £500,000 to £10million for third party liability claims depending on the policy, according to financial data firm Defaqto.
Defaqto found that 419 of 467 available dog insurance deals, or 90 per cent, include third party liability as standard.
There are 22 dog insurance deals that can be upgraded to include third party liability, and 20 that do not cover it at all.
So if you currently have pet insurance, check the small print – likewise if you do not have it but are thinking of buying a policy.
Not all third party liability covers dog bites
But even policies with third party liability may not pay claims if your dog bites someone.
Firstly, while most insurers offer third party liability as standard, some reserve the right to withdraw that cover if your dog is aggressive.
For example, insurance documents from the UK’s largest pet insurer, PetPlan, say the firm can ‘limit or remove third party liability cover from the start of your policy based on your pet’s veterinary and behavioural history’.
The insurer can also ‘limit or remove third party liability’ based on behaviour such as ‘aggressive tendencies’ when you renew one of its Covered For Life, Classic, Classic Plus, Ultimate or Pet Insurance policies.
Pet insurers do not normally pay out if your dog attacks you, your family members or anyone working for you, or if a dog attack is connected to what you do for work.
Not allowed: The dogo Argentino is one of four canine breeds banned in the UK
Dog insurance can be compulsory
Normally, dog insurance is the decision of the owner.
But if you own a dog that is one of the four banned breeds in the UK then you must get at least third-party insurance for it.
The Dangerous Dogs Act bans four breeds: the American pit bull terrier, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro.
Owners of banned dogs can have their pet taken off them by the police automatically, unless they have a lifetime certificate of exemption from a court to prove their dog is not a risk to the public.
Third party liability is a requirement for getting one of these exemption certificates.
Other requirements are for it to wear a muzzle and be on a lead in public, be neutered, microchipped and kept in a secure home.
On the watchlist: The American pit bull terrier is also banned in the UK, and is one of the breeds behind the controversial Bully XL
Insurers can refuse to cover some breeds
Many insurers will not cover the four breeds on the banned dogs list, while some go even further.
For example, Kennel Club Pet Insurance will not cover 16 dog breeds, including American Bullies and pitbull terriers, as well as any dog crossed with one of the 16 breeds on its banned list or any dog crossed with a wolf.
Angela Pilley, a pet insurance expert at Defaqto, said: ‘Each individual insurer will have their own list of excluded breeds which they will not provide any element of cover for. This differs from one provider to another.
‘Typically, as a minimum, excluded breeds will be those that must be registered under the Dangerous Dogs Act or an animal that is crossbred or mixed with any of these breeds, but some providers’ lists are much more extensive.’
You own a lurcher, which is not one of the banned breeds, being a sighthound crossed with a working dog breed.
However, some pet insurers will not offer third party liability to dogs that hunt, race, are used for security or take part in hare coursing, so if your dog does fit any of these categories you may require specialist cover.
Allianz UK, the owner of PetPlan, would not comment. Kennel Club Pet Insurance has been approached for comment.
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