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Owning a dog can be a blessing, most owners agree.

They serve as home security guards, playmates for our children and can help us deal with stress.

But the pluses quickly fade when a dog bites a stranger, resulting in a possible lawsuit or termination of a home insurance policy.

Texas ranks third in State Farm's list of the Top 10 states with the most dog bite claims. The company paid $4.3 million dollars here in 2012 to cover 236 claims. Compare that with California, where there was $17.1 million in dog bite claims.

"Homeowners who have dogs usually have a one-bite rule," said Mark Hanna, spokesman for the Insurance Council of Texas. "Everything is fine until their pet bites somebody, and at that point and time the insurance company steps in to reassess the homeowner policy.

"There are a lot of pets out there, and insurance companies are aware of that," he said.

So far this year, there have more than 520 reported dog bites in Houston, putting the city on track to match the 1,265 dog bites reported in 2012, according to BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions.

Dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2011, costing nearly $479 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

To be sure, some dog breeds are quicker to bite than others. Some of the major offenders are pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, Huskies, Dobermans and wolf-dog hybrids.

Having a dog can be a joy until that first bite, prompting a visit from an insurance agent, said Hanna, of the insurance council.

"At that time they'll discuss a possible increase in policy, or rate," he said.

The best insurance, Hanna said, is to have a fence, keep the dog on a leash and keep it away from children.

"Insurance companies are saying just use good common sense to protect people who live around you," he said.

(Source: Chron.com)
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