By Leslie S. – Acuity Insurance

Dog bites are a serious risk for property owners. You may think you are in the clear if you have rules in place prohibiting dogs or if you have guidelines limiting size and dangerous breeds. However, tenants sometimes break rules, and even the nicest-looking dog could potentially bite. It is important to understand that dog bites can affect your business, regardless of the rules you have in place.

Your tenant may be on the hook for the costs associated with the bite, but your reputation for providing a safe living environment is at risk, and you could have some financial liability. This is where your liability insurance may come into play.

Behavior expectations for animals on your property need to be defined. This is especially important now that emotional support animals are more common. There are no government regulations requiring emotional support dogs to be trained or well behaved, but as a property owner, you can define behavior expectations. Such rules may include:
• Dogs must be under the direct control of their owner at all times (leashed).
• There must be no excessive barking.
• Dogs must be up to date on vaccinations.
• Owners are required to pick up after their dog immediately.

It is important that your property manager or maintenance team note any concerning behaviors during their routine property visits. If an unauthorized dog is purposely overlooked because it’s well behaved and cute, you could be opening the door to a liability claim down the road.

The American Kennel Club says that body language can predict aggression. Some behaviors that may indicate an aggressive dog include yawning, ears forward, high tail, growling, and more. We recommend that your staff review the guidelines so they can be aware and protect their own safety and your business.

Consider updating your lease agreements to include language that specifically addresses liability when animals reside at the property. This can be a challenging subject for both property owners and tenants, so it is always a good idea to check with an attorney before finalizing any changes to your standard lease agreements.

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