No one likes playing the blame game when something goes wrong, but sometimes mistakes and accidents do happen, so naturally people look for compensation. Dogs are wonderful creatures but can sometimes cause damage or harm. In situations where someone is taking legal action against a person for something their dog has done, it can be a good idea to have liability insurance. But do you need liability insurance for your dog?

What is Liability Insurance/Third-Party Insurance?

If someone is blaming you for damaging them or their property (such as if you knocked over their post-box!), they are likely wanting financial compensation. Should they sue and go to court, and you are found liable (to blame), you will have to pay them compensation and any legal costs. This can end up being quite expensive. To be protected against large pay-outs a person or company can have liability insurance. With liability insurance, if a person is found liable for damage to a person or property, the company providing liability insurance will pay the claimant instead. 

Liability insurance is very common for large manufacturers, for professions like medicine and veterinary medicine (we all have to be covered before treating your animals!), and for employers at work. You’ll have probably seen it pop-up when renewing your car insurance, too.

What is Liability Insurance for Dogs?

Pet insurers are now offering liability insurance for dog owners as well. Dogs are legally an owner’s property and responsibility, meaning if your dog causes harm in any way you are responsible legally and financially, even if it wasn’t directly your fault. Things you could be liable for include:

  • your dog biting someone or another pet,
  • scaring farmer’s livestock,
  • damaging someone’s possessions,
  • running into the road and causing a car accident,
  • even accidentally tripping someone up in the street. 

If your dog causes an accident and you are found liable, it could result in you paying out thousands… Potentially even more if someone was seriously injured or killed. Having liability insurance will help cover these costs. 

Liability insurance is often covered under the more expensive maximum or lifetime pet insurances; it is rarely included with cheaper accident-only or time-limited insurances. Many companies offer it as an optional extra so do contact your insurer if you already have pet insurance.

Interestingly, cats are not held under the same laws as dogs and have more ‘freedom’, so to speak. A person would find it harder to successfully sue a cat owner for damages! As such, liability insurance for cats is uncommon.

Do I Need Liability Insurance For My Dog?

We would always recommend some form of insurance for all pets as it can really help keep the costs of medical treatment low and may even open up more treatment options should you need them. We’ve talked about insurance a lot before. Liability insurance is a little different – we would strongly advise it only to the owners of certain dogs; though by all means purchase it if you can afford it.

Owners of aggressive or nervous dogs should definitely get liability insurance, particularly if your dog is known to have bitten someone before. As we mentioned above, paying out if someone is seriously injured or killed because of your dog can potentially run into the millions of pounds. However, like all insurance companies, dog liability insurers are hoping to not pay out. If they feel your dog is likely to bite someone, costs of insurance could be much higher or even not be offered at all. Dogs categorised as ‘dangerous breeds’, like Pit Bulls, Cane Corsos and Wolfdogs, are unlikely to be insurable for liability. (Although note some of these breeds are illegal to own in the UK regardless).

Outside of ‘dangerous’ dogs, we would also recommend liability insurance for particularly bouncy, clumsy or wild dogs that may not always be under control, or may be working in places where the public are likely to be present. These dogs could be of any breed, so you will have to consider if your own dog fits this description. Examples may include farm dogs, dogs that like chasing other dogs or animals, and dogs off leads regularly. All of these situations could lead to damage to property or people and thus a claim; your liability insurance would protect you from this.

Are There Alternatives?

Just like regular pet insurance, there are alternatives to purchasing liability insurance. For example, self-insurance by setting aside money regularly, or asking for assistance from charities. However, remember that liability cases can regularly cost tens of thousands (we’ve read about examples where a friendly but too bouncy dog knocked someone over resulted in pay-outs of over £20,000), so likely to be impossible to pay even for the most frugal savers.

The other option would be to take steps to reduce the risk of accidents as much as possible. This may mean muzzling dangerous dogs, lead-walking those that are bouncy, and not letting destructive dogs in other people’s houses. But these are only precautions and even with the best will in the world, accidents will happen. Could you financially pay and mentally deal with the consequences if your dog caused harm and you had no liability insurance?

Final Thoughts:

Remember that liability insurance isn’t just for the extreme cases of an aggressive dog biting someone. It can help with something as simple as a ruined sofa cushion or a knocked-over postman. If your dog is anything but the perfect lapdog who never causes any mischief, it might be worth considering purchasing dog liability insurance.

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