If you have a pit bull or other dog that’s generally considered dangerous, you'd better start cutting back on dog treats or maybe get a smaller house and a cheaper car, because you are going to have a hefty insurance premium -- if you can even find a policy.
Owners of dogs classified as dangerous by Ormond Beach, Fla., for example, will now have to get $100,000 liability insurance coverage to keep their pets after an ordinance passed by the City Commission. Other locales are looking at similar legislation.
How does a dog get a "dangerous" label? It takes just one time, that's it. If your dog attacks a human once or it attacks another animal more than twice in Ormond Beach you will be officially living with a dangerous dog.
Before the vote last week, the dog owner just had to carry a policy for $1,000 but the city fathers felt the higher policy limit was justified because of the cost of treating dog-bite injuries. Research shows that the average medical bill for someone bitten by a dog is around $40,000.
If you don't have the $100,000 insurance, you have to leave the area or surrender your dog.
Homeowners policy not enough
While homeowners and renters insurance usually cover dog bites, they often don't provide enough coverage to handle major injuries. Also, insurance companies are increasingly excluding breeds considered dangerous.
One answer is to buy an "umbrella" policy, which basically covers everything not covered by other policies. But again, insurance companies are excluding dangerous breeds from those policies as well.
Pit bulls and rottweilers are generally considered the most dangerous breeds, according to DogsBite.org.
Laws, of course, vary by state and from one city or two to another within each state but the trend is clearly towards harsh penalties and escalating liability for vicious dogs and their owners.
Maryland recently backed away from laws aimed specifically at pit bulls when then-Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a measure repealing what some called "canine racism." But a few months later, in Frederick, Md., a pit bull attacked and killed its 87-year-old owner, Eugene Smith, as he took down his Christmas tree.
Backers of the anti-canine racism measure disclaimed any responsibility for the incident.
Legal niceties aside, what it comes down to is that owning a dog considered to be dangerous represents a legal liability that is greater than most consumers can afford.