Aggressive Dog Breeds vs. Insurance: What Indianapolis Landlords Need to Know
I want to start out by saying that we, as a company, LOVE dogs.
Almost every one of our staff members has at least one furry friend and from a business standpoint, we encourage property Owners to allow pets in their rentals.
In our experience, the pros of having a pet friendly unit far outweigh the cons.
However, ‘pet friendly’ shouldn’t equate to any and all animals welcome.
Unfortunately, there are certain dog breeds that have garnered an unfavorable reputation and, in turn, have become too much of a liability for insurance companies to protect and, therefore, Landlords to accept.
As unfair as it may seem to stereotype entire breeds, insurance companies are supposed to evaluate the risk of an incident happening, and they often feel that the presence of certain dog breeds on a homeowner’s property boosts that risk.
Certain dogs simply pose a higher risk of harming someone more than others, so to many, it makes sense to ban those breeds from coverage.
WHAT ARE COMMON AGGRESSIVE DOG BREEDS?
You’ll want to check with your personal insurance company to find out which dog breeds they will not cover, but there are a number of breeds that appear on almost every restricted list:
- Pit Bulls
- Chow Chows
- Doberman Pinschers
- German Shepherds
Any mixes or variations of these breeds are typically restricted as well.
WHY SHOULD I RESTRICT AGGRESSIVE DOG BREEDS IN MY INDIANAPOLIS RENTAL PROPERTY?
As a Landlord, you assume a lot of responsibility and risk. There are a LOT of laws you have to follow in the property management business which means there are a LOT of opportunities for someone to try and sue you.
While there are no actual laws that property owners are always liable when a Tenant’s dog injures someone, there are plenty of cases that have ended up with liable landlords.
Knowingly allowing a Tenant to move-in with an aggressive dog breed puts you in a very bad position should the animal ever bite or attack someone.
Not only could you have a major lawsuit on your hands, which will be very expensive since your insurance obviously isn’t covering anything, but you’ll have to live with the guilt of being partially responsible for someone being injured…or worse.
Unfortunately, many of the dogs on the aggressive breeds lists tend to be some of the most popular, so even though you may alienate a few potential applicants, it’s not worth the risk of allowing them in your properties.
ADDITIONAL PET RESTRICTIONS TO CONSIDER
Service Animals have protected rights under the Federal Fair housing Act, so you must treat them accordingly. But as of now, “regular” animals are not considered a protected class so you have some freedom to implement whatever restrictions you see fit.
Here are a few to consider:
WEIGHT LIMITATIONS – It’s quite common practice for Landlords and Property Managers to impose weight restrictions on the dogs they allow in their units.
This comes from the thought process that the bigger the animal, the more damage it will cause to the home.
While this can most certainly be true, it’s not a definitively proven theory. In fact, we’ve seen dogs under 10 pounds cause more damage than those that are 60+ pounds!
Perhaps a primary consideration for your pet policy should be whether or not the property is suitable for a large breed, such as sufficient space inside and a large enough yard for a large breed to get exercise.
At T&H, we hold the personal view that no matter the size of the dog, if the Tenant is a responsible Renter, than they will ensure their animal does not cause excessive damage to the home.
Needless to say, our company policy doesn’t include any weight limitations, but we allow our Clients to have the final decision.
TYPE OF ANIMALS – It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally you’ll get some really strange pet requests. It doesn’t hurt to have a list of restricted animals to refer to, or a list of the animals you will allow on the premises.
Not too long ago, we had an applicant ask if they could have chickens at the property, and needless to say, we were a little caught off guard.
While there’s no definite proof that chickens would cause major damage, there’s also not a lot of proof that they wouldn’t since it’s not a typical animal that we deal with on a frequent basis.
You really just have to decide what you’re personally willing to deal with.
NUMBER OF ANIMALS – Another stipulation you may want to consider is the number of pets you will allow.
It seems fairly common to see a two pet limit within many organizations, which, I can definitely understand; most property Owners don’t want their homes turned into zoos.
If you decide not to put a limit on the number of pets, then a higher deposit or pet fee should be implemented for Renters who have more than a few animals.
VACCINATIONS AND REGISTRATION – As an added precaution, you may want to require Tenants to provide proof of vaccinations and that the animals wear identification collars or tags.
The city of Indianapolis has certain requirements pertaining to domestic pets, so ensuring your Tenants are following those ordinances will only help down the road in case of an incident.
Some of these provisions include:
- A person who owns a dog or cat in the consolidated city and county shall ensure that each dog or cat owned by that person bears a permanent means of identification at all times, such that the animal’s owner can be ascertained accurately, quickly, and easily.
- It shall be unlawful to keep a dog, cat, or ferret or to provide food, water or shelter to a cat over the age of three (3) months in the city unless each dog, cat, or ferret is immunized against rabies by a vaccination performed by a veterinarian.
- Each owner of a dog, cat, or ferret that is kept in the city shall cause the rabies vaccination tag to be affixed to the animal’s collar, and to be worn by the animal at all times.
So, while we absolutely encourage property Owners to allow pets in their rentals, we also encourage smart restrictions that will protect you from an unnecessary financial hit.
You may be a dog lover and even have dangerous breed pets of your own, but you never truly know how a dog will react to a new home or situation. You also have no way of knowing how your Tenant has raised the dog, or even where it came from.
If renting to a tenant with a dangerous breed will give you nightmares, cause you extra stress, or simply make you afraid to visit your property, don’t do it. There are plenty of Renters with small or benign pets that can rent your property without causing you undue stress.
If, for some reason you feel strongly about allowing all types of dogs, you’ll need to shop around and find an insurance company that provides coverage for those aggressive breeds.
Keep in mind that you will be paying a much higher premium for this coverage, so you’ll need to crunch some numbers, determine the impact this expense will have on your bottom line, and decide if it’s worth it.
As always, taking extra precautions during the application, screening, and leasing process can protect you and your property in the long run.