Pandemic-related lockdowns have led many people to bring new furry friends into their homes.
A survey from the Insurance Research Council (IRC), found that 21 percent of homeowners reported adopting a dog in 2020.
Despite the increase in the number of dogs in American homes, homeowners dog bite (and related injury), claims fell overall by 4.6 percent in 2020 from the previous year, to 16,990 from 17,800 nationally, according to Triple-I and State Farm analysis.
March had the most dog-related injury claims last year, when people first went into lockdown at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to State Farm. Dog bites were up 21.6 percent from the previous March, likely due to dogs dealing with owner stress, disruption in routines and more people around the house throughout the day. Experts fear another disruption—this time cause by the easing of restrictions for activities outside the home—could lead to another spike in bites.
Though the overall number of claims decreased, the total cost of claims increased by 7.1 percent to $853.7 million, up from $796.8 million in 2019. And the average cost per claim increased 12.3 percent to $50,245, up from $44,760 in 2019.
Dog bite related claims costs have been climbing for years. The average cost per claim nationally has risen 162 percent from 2003 to 2020, due to increased medical costs and the upward trend in the size of settlements, judgments, and jury awards.
Claims costs are attributable not only to dog bites but also to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, and the elderly, which can result in costly injuries.
The latest Triple-I dog bite claim figures are released in conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an event held each year to help reduce the number of dog bites.
Children are particularly at risk for dog bites and are more likely to be severely injured, so it’s essential for parents to teach their kids to be safe around strange dogs and their own pets.
Dog training is, of course, key to preventing dog bites and related injuries for everyone, and National Dog Bite Prevention Week’s organizers offer many practical tips. This year, dog experts are particularly focused on re-socializing animals that have been isolated along with their humans for the past year.
To provide more tips for pet owners, members of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition— which includes the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), State Farm, Insurance Information Institute (Triple I), American Humane and Victoria Stilwell Positively— will be hosting a Facebook Live event on Monday, April 12, at 1 p.m. Eastern.
Triple-I recommends that you check your homeowners or renters insurance policy to be sure it covers liability for dog bites and related injuries. Click here for more details about dog bite liability insurance.