If I Just Adopted a Boxer-Pit Bull Mix, Do I Need to Let My Homeowner’s Insurance Company Know?

When you take out a homeowner's insurance policy, you'll receive a comprehensive document that outlines the "fine print" of your policy's coverage schemes. This document will build on the "declaration page" that outlines the basic terms of your policy, including its expiration date, deductible amount and premium costs.

Since it may run to several dozen pages in length, be sure to set aside enough time to read and understand it before agreeing to its terms. You may need an hour or two to absorb all of the information that this document contains. If you see a condition or rider that you don't understand, be sure to bring it up with your insurance agent or direct-sales provider at your earliest possible convenience.

If you own a large-breed dog and aren't sure whether it will be included on your new policy, be sure to ask your agent before agreeing to the policy that you've been offered. Although many homeowner's insurance policies don't typically cover costs associated with damages caused by domestic animals, most insurance companies that receive advance notice of the presence of a large-breed dog in the home will make certain allowances for these animals. However, such allowances may come at a cost: Homeowner's insurance policies that permit dogs in the home may cost 25 to 40 percent more than non-dog policies.

Insurance companies assess these additional costs for two principal reasons. First, certain dogs can be aggressive. Dogs who bite third parties can land their owners in serious legal and financial trouble. The lawsuits that arise out of such incidents can be costly and may require financial assistance from the dog owner's insurance company. Secondly, dogs can be messy. Large dogs that spend significant amounts of time in a house can cause damage to the contents of the home. Since these contents are covered by most homeowner's insurance policies, messy dogs often raise the value of their owners' insurance premiums.

The most expensive breeds to insure are known for their independence and aggression. For instance, pit bulls are generally considered to be more messy and dangerous than poodles. Mixed breeds that contain "aggressive" strains are typically assumed to be risky as well. Insurance companies actually maintain tables that contain risk metrics for each discrete breed of dog.

If you've recently purchased a dog that might be considered to be dangerous, you should tell your provider immediately. Otherwise, your insurance company will be under no obligation to honor any claims that you make for damages caused by your new dog.

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