Can owning a dog get your home insurance revoked?

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by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A recent news article published by the Kingstonist tells the troubling tale of a family who lost their home insurance because their dog was deemed to be of a “dangerous breed”. The family owns an American Bulldog, which was considered similar enough to other dog breeds on a list of restricted animals at Allstate Insurance, where the family had their policy. The family’s dog was a rescue animal and had no history of aggression toward anybody. But Allstate held firm that the insurance policy would be revoked if they kept their pet. Luckily, the story has a happy ending – another insurance company, local to Kingston, offered the family a policy for their home (this company had no restricted dog breeds list).

Situations such as this one raise the question of how far insurance companies are allowed to go in terms of gathering information and making exceptions to, or even denying, policies based on gathered information. Simply put, different insurance companies will naturally have different questions and policy restrictions. More restrictions protect the insurance company from liability, but less restrictions means a greater likelihood of attracting clients. Different companies view this balance differently. One reason it is important to tell the truth when asked a question by your insurance company (or when getting an insurance quote), is that lying can render your policy void when you need it most – that is, when you want to make a claim.

Some simple examples of this are: lying about whether you smoke tobacco in your home, or whether you have a woodstove, and then experiencing a house fire. Such lies could actually be just cause for your insurance company to refuse to pay up to cover the loss, meaning you have been paying those premiums for nothing. In the case of a dog bite, if you have lied about having a dog, you could be on the hook for the entire monetary settlement, if you are sued for the injury on your property.

Protecting yourself when it comes to insurance is usually straightforward – if questions are asked, make sure you answer them honestly, and review any policy documents carefully. If one insurance company is making an issue out of something, such as dog ownership, never lie or change your answer to get a policy. Chances are, another company will be happy to sell you a policy. Applying for insurance is, therefore, one prime example of when honesty is the best policy.

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