Private liability insurance for dog owners

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What is liability insurance for dog owners?

The German Civil Code (BGB) regulates the liability of pet owners in § 833. According to the law, every private pet owner is obliged to pay compensation in the following cases:

  • a human being is killed by the behaviour of his animal
  • the behaviour of his animal causes damage to the health or body of a human being 
  • the behaviour of his animal damages something that belongs to another

The type and amount of damages to be paid depends on the damage in question and, if applicable, the conditions set out in a court ruling. As you can imagine, the compensation for damage caused by your dog will be much lower if only one thing is damaged than if it affects a human life. Due to the age of your dog and his lively nature, the following situations are conceivable, for example:

  • You are staying with your dog in a hotel and your dog damages the upholstery of the sofa while frolicking around.
  • Your dog tears itself away from you in the city and runs into the busy street. There is a collision by the abrupt braking of several vehicles. Several people suffer injuries.

When people are injured by the behaviour of your dog, the claims for damages can be very high, and in the worst case, you can be in debt for the rest of your life. A dog owner's liability insurance or a pet owner's liability insurance can protect you from this, because the insurer not only covers the claims for the damage caused but also fends off unjustified claims.

Pet owner liability insurance

Animal owner's liability insurance protects an insured against claims for damages that arise from the private keeping of animals. It is particularly recommended for owners of larger animals, such as dogs and horses, because smaller animals, such as cats or rabbits, are usually included in private liability insurance. 

Is my dog included in my private liability insurance?

Your personal liability insurance regulates all damages that you yourself as policyholder or the co-insured persons, such as spouse and children, inflict on another person. Most insurance policies also include the settlement of damages caused by small pets, such as

  • your rabbit gnawed on a visitor's purse, and the purse now has a hole in it.
  • your cat knocked your friend's smartphone off the table and the display is splintered.

However, insurers usually refuse to pay for damage caused by a dog under personal liability insurance.

Is dog owner liability insurance sensible for me? 

The dog owner's liability insurance, in short dog liability insurance, is not a compulsory insurance for every dog and not in every federal state, but it is still advisable to take it out. This applies especially in these cases:

  • your dog is very lively 
  • it doesn't always listen to your commands
  • it's a so-called attack dog
  • you are often travelling with your dog

In which federal states and for which breeds is there a compulsory insurance for dogs?

The obligation to take out a dog owner's liability insurance policy is not regulated uniformly throughout Germany but at the level of the federal states. The only federal state where there is currently no compulsory insurance for dogs is Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In all other federal states, liability insurance for dogs is partly compulsory and partly under certain conditions. As a dog owner, you are obliged to inform yourself exactly about your rights and obligations. Otherwise, you risk high fines. Since laws and regulations can change, you should regularly inform yourself in the press or on the internet. As of September 2019, the compulsory insurance for dog owners in the individual federal states is regulated as follows:

State
Obligation to have dog owner liability insurance
Baden-Württemberg
  • Duty, if the dog is classified as an attack dog or dangerous dog
  • Regulation by the Police Regulation of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Rural Areas on the keeping of dangerous dogs
Bavaria
  • Not mandatory in all states
  • In some communities, it is compulsory for fighting dogs
  • Regulation by the ordinance on dogs with increased aggressiveness and dangerousness
Berlin
  • Core obligation
  • Regulation by the Berlin Dog Law
  • The sum insured must be at least one million euros per year
Brandenburg
  • Obligation for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by the Ordnungsbehoerde Verordnung über das Halten und Führen von Dogs
Bremen
  • Duty for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by the Bremen Dog-Holding Law (HundeHG)
Hamburg
  • Core obligation
  • Regulated by the Hamburg Dog Law (HundeG)
  • The sum insured must be at least one million euros
Hessen
  • Duty for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by the Ordinance on the Keeping and Handling of Dogs (HundeVO)
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  • No obligation,
  • Regulation by the Ordinance on the Keeping and Handling of Dogs (Hundeverordnung/HundehVO M-V)
Lower Saxony
  • Basic obligation for all dogs older than six months
  • Regulated by the Lower Saxony Law on the Keeping of Dogs (NHundG)
  • Since 2016, there has been an insurance requirement for every dog owner Minimum insurance sums: 250.000 Euro for property damage and 500.000 Euro for personal injury
North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Duty for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by the Dog Act for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Minimum insurance sums: 250,000 euros for property damage and 500,000 euros for personal injury
Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Duty, if the dog is classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by the state law on dangerous dogs (LHundG)
Saarland
  • Duty for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by police regulation on the protection of the population against dangerous dogs
Duty for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Duty for dogs classified as dangerous
  • Regulation by the law to protect the population from dangerous dogs
Saxony-Anhalt
  • Compulsory for every dog owner
  • Regulation by the law for precaution against the dangers emanating from dogs (GefHuG ST)
Schleswig-Holstein
  • Obligatory for every dog owner
  • Regulation by the law on keeping dogs (HundeG)
  • Minimum insurance sums: 250,000 euros for property damage and 500,000 euros for personal injury
Thuringia
  • Basic duty for every dog owner
  • Regulation by the Thuringian law for the protection of the population against animal dangers

Which dog breeds require dog owner's liability insurance is not uniformly regulated within Germany, but it is the responsibility of the individual federal states. If the insurance obligation exists for all dogs, the breed affiliation is irrelevant. However, some federal states clearly define that a dog needs to be insured when it is considered dangerous, and they define which breeds are classified as dangerous in principle. As a rule, a dog is classified as dangerous regardless of its breed if the following criteria apply:

  • The dog has already attracted attention through aggressive behaviour towards other animals or people.
  • The dog has bitten people or animals in the past.
  • The dog shows a biting behaviour without any inhibition.
  • A willingness to attack and a readiness to fight that goes beyond the usual extent is recognizable.
  • The dog has been bred, trained or educated for combat readiness.

If the insurance obligation only applies to dogs that are considered dangerous, you must observe the breed lists of the individual federal states.

State
Breeds classified as dangerous
Baden-Württemberg
  • Bullterrier
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Various dogs that are presumed to be dangerous, unless the dog owner provides evidence to the contrary, including Bullmastiff, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Mastiff.
Bavaria
  • American Staffordshire-Terrier
  • Bandog
  • Pitbull
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
  • Tosa Inu
  • Various dogs that are assumed to be dangerous, including Bullmastiff, American Bulldog and Mastiff.
Berlin
  • Bullterrier
  • Pit-Bull
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
Brandenburg
  • Bullterrier
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
  • Tosa Inu
  • Various dogs that are presumed to be dangerous, unless the dog owner provides evidence to the contrary, including Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers and Mastiffs.
Bremen
  • Bullterrier
  • Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
Hamburg
  • Bullterrier
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
  • Various dogs that are presumed to be dangerous, unless the dog owner provides evidence to the contrary, including Bullmastiffs, Rottweilers and Mastiffs.
Hessen
  • American Bulldog
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Terrier
  • Bullterrier
  • Argentine Dogo
  • Kangal
  • Caucasian Owtscharka
  • Pit-Bull-Terrier
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • Staffordshire-Bullterrier
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  • Bullterrier
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
Lower Saxony
  • no breed list
North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Bullterrier
  • Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
Saarland
  • American Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
Saxony
  • Bullterrier
  • Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
Saxony-Anhalt
  • Bullterrier
  • Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier
Schleswig-Holstein
  • keine spezielle Rasseliste
Thuringia
  • Bullterrier
  • Pitbull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bullterrier


Which damages are covered by liability insurance for dogs and which are not?

The dog owner's or pet owner's liability insurance provides benefits in the event of claims for damages from a third party:

  • Damage to property, for example, through replacement or repair
  • Personal injury, for example, through the payment of treatment costs and compensation for pain and suffering
  • Pecuniary loss, e.g., compensation for loss of earnings as a result of personal injury

Overview of damage types 

  • Damage to property: an object is reduced in value or rendered unusable by damage
  • Personal injury: a person is injured, impaired in his health or even killed
  • Pecuniary loss: occurs as a result of personal injury or damage to property, for example, due to incapacity to work or loss of data when a computer is damaged

Own damages, i.e., damages caused by your dog to yourself or your co-insured relatives, are not covered by dog liability insurance.

What benefits should I look out for in my dog liability insurance, and what are the additional benefits?

If you compare different dog liability insurance policies with each other, it is worth taking a closer look at the benefits and additional services, as these can vary greatly from one insurer to another. The standard service provided by the insurers includes the assumption of claims for compensation to settle the damage incurred up to the agreed sum insured. In addition, passive legal protection is usually included, which includes the defence of unfounded claims. Depending on the insurance contract, there are also various additional services, such as:

  • Assumption of claims for compensation in the event of damage to rented property
  • Insurance coverage in the event of a breach of the obligations of the keeper
  • Assumption of claims for compensation in the event of an unwanted mating
  • Co-insurance of puppies (puppy protection)
  • Settlement of claims during a stay abroad
  • Settlement of so-called corridor damage, for example, in gardens or in the cemetery
  • Assumption of claims for damages caused by damage during special events, such as tournaments, shows or dog races

Definition of sum insured 

The term sum insured refers to the agreed sum insured, i.e., the maximum amount of compensation covered by the insurance. If, for example, you have concluded a contract with a sum insured of 5 million euros, the insurer will provide benefits up to this amount in the event of a claim.

How much does a dog owner's liability insurance cost, and is there a quantity rate for several dogs?

Dog owner liability insurance is not expensive, but it pays off. Basically, the insurance premium depends on the following points:

  • Dog breed
  • Sum insured
  • Amount of excess (none, 150 euros, 250 euros, 500 euros)
  • Minimum term (one to three years)
  • Payment method (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually)

Some insurers also offer discounts depending on the age of the dog owner.

Example of the amount of the insurance premium

Annual premiums for dog owner's liability insurance for a French bulldog start at around 35 euros with a minimum term of one year, a deductible of 150 euros and a coverage of 5 million euros when paid annually.

There are insurers who charge higher premiums if your dog belongs to a dangerous breed or fighting dogs (list dogs). Some even exclude the insurance cover completely.

If you insure several dogs, many insurance companies reward this with a volume discount. The amount of discount depends on the breed of dog, your age and the amount of coverage. In order to keep the rates as transparent as possible, Coya does not offer quantity discounts.

How much should the insurance sum be?

In some federal states, there is not only the obligation to take out dog owner liability insurance, but minimum insurance sums are also specified. Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, provide for minimum insurance sums of 250,000 euros for property damage and 500,000 euros for personal injury. If you live in Berlin or Hamburg, you must choose an insurance sum of at least one million euros. You should always bear in mind that claims for damages can be very high, especially if it is personal injury. It is therefore advisable to choose a total sum insured of at least five million euros. 

You should therefore choose the highest possible sum insured

Imagine that your dog has caused a traffic accident in which a person has been injured. You are then obliged to pay all compensation claims for measures that are necessary to restore the injured person's health. These may include, for example, special aids, medical treatment and care or nursing. In the worst case, it may even be necessary to cover the costs of a vehicle suitable for the disabled, vocational rehabilitation and home conversion. This can result in costs in the millions, which you can only cushion by taking out dog liability insurance.

How can I save on my insurance?

There are various ways to save on dog owner's liability insurance without receiving a lower level of benefits. You have to pay less in the following cases:

  • You choose a high deductible
  • You choose a long minimum term
  • You pay the insurance premium not monthly or quarterly, but once a year

Note, however, that the rates for this insurance are generally not very high and you will be very limited, for example, by a long minimum contract period or a high deductible. The shorter the contract period, the sooner you can switch to another insurer or tariff if necessary and benefit from lower premiums and better benefits.

Are rental property damages covered by liability insurance for dogs?

If you live in a rented apartment or house, it is definitely worth taking out dog liability insurance. Damage to the so-called rental property by dogs is not uncommon and is usually settled by the insurance company. This can be the case, for example, if the dog has knocked over a bucket while playing, and the rented carpet is ruined by the water that ran out. Many insurers’ grant benefits are from 300,000 euros up to 20 million euros.

Does my dog owner's liability insurance also apply if I am not present during the damage, or do I have to take out third-party insurance?

In principle, the law stipulates that you must exercise the necessary care when supervising the animal. If your dog is often looked after by other people, such as friends and acquaintances, who do not do this on a commercial basis, you should ensure when taking out insurance that it includes herding by third parties as a benefit component. As a rule, your family members will always be included in the group of people insured. 

Does the dog owner's liability insurance regulate damages if my dog is kept without a leash?

That depends on your contract. Some insurers will also pay benefits if they are caused by your dog not on a leash.

What about insurance cover if my dog bites someone?

Dog owner's liability insurance provides cover if another person or animal is bitten by your dog. Depending on the agreed benefits, the insurance then covers, for example, claims for compensation for the doctor or veterinarian, for damaged clothing and for compensation for pain and suffering. Depending on the contract, this may also be the case if the dog has bitten another supervisor, called a guardian bite.

Does the dog owner have to be liable for damages that occur while attending the dog school?

In principle, the dog owner must always be liable for damage caused by his animal to a third party. This also applies if he attends a dog training school with his pet. In this case, some insurers provide for additional benefits that you can contractually agree to. With Coya, participation in dog training is included in the insurance.

The liability of the animal keeper

The German Civil Code (BGB) exempts the dog owner from his obligation if he places the dog in the care of the dog school as contractually agreed and another person suffers damage during this time. In this case, § 834 BGB, which provides for the liability of the animal supervisor, applies. It must then be checked whether the dog trainer's public liability insurance is responsible.

Are veterinary costs covered by the dog liability insurance?

The dog liability insurance covers all expenses that arise in the event of damage. However, veterinary costs are only covered for another animal, not for your own dog. Here are two examples:

  • Your dog chased a neighbor's cat in the garden and bit it. The cat must be treated by a vet. The liability insurance for dog owners will then not only pay for this, but it will also settle the bills for all remedies and aids.
  • Your own dog has also injured himself during the cat hunt, and you must take him to the vet. The expenses associated with this are not covered by the dog owner's liability insurance. You have to cover them yourself if you do not have dog health insurance or dog surgery insurance.
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