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Homeowners might want to think twice before bringing a dog into the house.

Some insurance companies will be less than thrilled to hear about the new pit bull, the Rottweiler puppy or even the energetic Dalmatian because dog bites are on the rise and they cost insurance companies millions of dollars in claims each year.

The Insurance Information Institute in Washington, D.C., reports dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid in 2010, costing nearly $413 million.

In an effort to get a handle on the costs, some companies include "dangerous dog" clauses in their homeowners policies that effectively place certain breeds on a "blacklist," meaning the insurer won't cover a home containing those breeds.

The list of breeds varies by insurer, which is why some will be fine with the Dalmatian or the boxer while others will withhold coverage.

"If a company has had experience over a number of years with a particular dog breed that has cost them money, it's their prerogative not to have to insure something they perceive as a risk," said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

An analysis by the institute found the average cost of dog bite claims was $24,840 in 2009, up from $24,461 in 2008. The number of claims increased by 4.8 percent to 16,586 in 2009 from 15,823 in 2008, the most recent figures available.

Pennsylvania law recognizes the insurer's right to refuse to write a policy based on concerns over a canine resident.

But homeowners may be relieved to learn that state law does not allow an insurer to terminate an existing policy because of a dog -- unless the dog has bitten someone in the past without provocation.

"Simply getting a dog which is on an underwriter's 'list' would not be a proper reason to terminate coverage," said Rosanne Placey, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania insurance department.

The most commonly rejected breeds are pit bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and German shepherds. Borderline breeds are supersized canines, such as the English bull mastiff and Great Dane.

Courtesy: insurancenews.net

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