Fewer ordinary bites but more maulings & deaths sends payouts soaring 40% in five years
CHICAGO, Illinois––U.S. children under one year of age were rushed to emergency rooms due to dog attack almost twice as often in 2018 as in 2001.
At least 3,125 babies made the terrifying trip to an emergency room after a dog mauling in 2018, up from 1,794 in 2001.
The average insurance payout for a dog attack claim increased to $39,017 in 2018, up 5.3% from the previous record average payout of $37,051 in 2017, and has increased 15% in just two years.
Bad news buried in Dog Bite Prevention Week publicity
The total insurance industry payout for dog attacks is up 40% since 2013, from $483 million to $675 million, though down in 2018 from the record $684 million total payout in 2017.
National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition partners State Farm Insurance, the Insurance Information Institute, American Humane, and celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell acknowledged but buried the data in an April 4, 2019 media release heralding National Dog Bite Prevention Week, April 7-13.
Instead, the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition members celebrated a 9% decrease in total dog bite insurance claims in 2018.
The 17,297 insurance claims filed for dog bite injuries in 2018 were the fewest since 2012, following four consecutive years of more than 18,000 claims per year.
However, the increasing average payout per claim confirms that while ordinary dog bites may be fewer, there are more bites each year of severity levels 4, 5, and 6 on the Ian Dunbar scale, meaning multiple injuries, life-changing harm, and fatalities.
The National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition mantra for 2019 continues to be shibboleths dating back to the first Dog Bite Prevention Week, introduced by the U.S. Postal Service in 1956, asserting that “Any dog can bite. Active supervision, proper socialization and learning how to read a dog’s body language are the keys to reducing bites.”
Any dog can bite, but bully breeds do most of the mauling
But while any dog can bite, pit bulls alone––now at an all-time high of 5.3% of the dog population, a little more than one dog in 20, inflicted 74 of the exactly 100 dog attack deaths occurring in the U.S. and Canada in 2017 and 2018.
Pit bulls also inflicted 444 of the 759 total dog attack fatalities occurring in the U.S. and Canada from 1982 through 2018 (58%), and inflicted 76% of the 5,668 disfiguring injuries.
Add in attacks by Rottweilers, bullmastiffs, boxers, and other “bully” breeds closely related to pit bulls, and 77% of dog attack fatalities plus 88% of dog attack disfigurements have been inflicted by 16.2% of the dog population.
Most dangerous non-bullies
Include attacks by Akitas, German shepherds, huskies, Malamutes, Malinois, wolf hybrids, and other breeds that have been passed off as wolf hybrids, along with chows, and just 25% of the U.S. and Canadian dog population inflict 90% of the dog attack fatalities and 95% of the disfigurements.
The National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition acknowledged that “Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for nearly one third of all homeowners’ liability claim dollars paid out in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners’ insurance in the United States.”
Not acknowledged, however, was that unrestrained proliferation of high-risk breeds, especially pit bulls, is the biggest reason why.
What insuring pit bulls costs homeowners
At least 13 national insurance underwriting companies will not insure pit bulls. Many insurance groups also “red line” or charge higher premiums to insure homeowners and renters who keep the high-risk breeds, so as not to oblige owners of other dogs to subsidize the owners of high-risk breeds.
State Farm, however, is “one of the few insurance companies that does not exclude homeowner or renter insurance coverage because of the breed of dog owned,” boasted a State Farm media release during Dog Bite Prevention Week 2018.
What does that cost State Farm policy holders?
State Farm currently has 10.1% of the U.S. property-and-casualty insurance market, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
State Farm in 2018 paid out $123 million, the second most in the history of the company and 18.2% of the national total, to settle 3,280 dog bite and injury claims.
This was a substantial reduction from the record $132 million that State Farm paid out in 2017 to settle dog attack claims, 18.9% of the national total.
The difference between State Farm payouts in dog attack cases in 2018, as compared to 2017, may reflect in part that dog attack fatalities fell from a record 57 in 2017, 40 by pit bulls, to 42 in 2018, 33 by pit bulls.
But State Farm insurees are nonetheless still paying premiums to insure their dogs that appear to be nearly twice as high as would be necessary if the insurees were not subsidizing pit bull owners.
Altogether, State Farm “has paid over $1 billion for dog-related injury claims” since 2008, the company acknowledged during Dog Bite Prevention Week 2018.
The total is now about $1.125 billion.