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Dog liability insurance: what it covers and when the policyholder pays

The question of who pays for the damage caused by the dog is often not easy to answer. Insurance expert Ralf Becker explains conflict cases from practice.

Case 1: The owner overlooks the leash obligation

Anyone who ignores the leash requirement imposed by a municipality has violated a regulation according to the general insurance rules and thus no claim to reimbursement of the costs if the free-running dog causes damage. It does not matter whether you have not seen the sign or the dog “usually always hears”. This can become very expensive very quickly: for example, if the dog chases after a rabbit and causes an accident on the nearby road. Anyone who takes out pet owner insurance should therefore make sure that driving without a leash is explicitly insured. Many insurers now offer this.
Attention: This is often not mentioned in old contracts!

Case 2: The dog bites a conspecific

If one dog bites or injures another, the costs are usually shared among the dog owners. For owners whose dog was allegedly attacked for no reason, this is often difficult to see. If the opposing insurance company only takes over part of the damage, it usually argues with the so-called animal-typical danger. Because it can almost never be ruled out that an animal-typical behavior has led the other dog to a defensive posture and thus to bite.

Case 3: The dog bites the policyholder, family member or the pet sitter

An everyday situation: they go out and take the dog to friends. But what if he gets scared, e.g. snaps at the child and the wound needs medical treatment? From a purely legal point of view, the friendship is then put to a severe test: because when the dog is handed over, the friends take the position of the policyholder. However, damage to one’s own person or to family members is never insured in the case of liability, i.e. not even with the watchdog. Most new insurance contracts now include damage to dog sitters. If you still have an old contract, you should check this.

Case 4: The dog causes damage to rental items

Damage to borrowed or rented items is generally excluded in the case of liability. This also applies to damage caused by the dog in a holiday apartment. If you regularly travel in this way, you should check with the dog liability whether rental property damage is also insured: both on immovable objects such as doors, walls, floors and on movable such as furniture. These are often omitted, but can be expensive.


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