dog bites

Ouch! More than four million people per year are treated for dog bites. Claims generated by bite victims and dog owners can impact property owners and homeowner’s associations as well.We love these poochie pals, but sometimes their bite is worse than their bark.

To the tune of about $570 million, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claims paid in 2015, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average claim? Nearly $38,000. And even more unsettling, the dog bite incident occurred on the dog owner’s residence half of the time. 77% of times, the victim was a friend or family member.

How can property owners or homeowner’s associations protect themselves? For starters, if a resident dog is known to have a history of biting or to be threatening or “dangerous,” it is the property owner’s responsibility to have that pet permanently removed from the premises. If a threat is not known, then this type of premise liability is less likely.

Checklist for owners:

  1. Address reports of bites and concerns about safety
  2. Review lease details for managing dogs
  3. Enforce leash rules for shared spaces
  4. Provide adequate fencing and working gates
  5. Consider breed restrictions
  6. Understand risks/responsibility of caring for tenant’s dogs

Leases are a good place to start to implement proactive measures. It is possible to include language that requires a tenant to remove a dog from the premises within 48 hours if the property owner deems the dog “a nuisance,” “a danger,” or even just “undesirable.” With this agreement in place, a property owner is protected when the need arises to take legal action to have a pet removed. If a property owner cares for a resident dog, then liability increases.

The scenarios of risk are endless—the cable guy getting chased over a fence and breaking his leg; the postal worker adding her hand-bite claim to the list of postal workers who have filed; a child getting bitten in the face, requiring plastic surgery; an elderly person being knocked down by an out-of-control dog and adding to the medical bills with pain and suffering.

Property owners and homeowner’s associations can also consider additional measures, such as leash laws for shared areas, adequate fencing and gates, and potentially, breed restrictions.