Man's best friend is shaping up to be an insurer's worst nightmare.

According to new statistics released today by the Insurance Information Institute (III), dog bite claims chomped on insurers' legs to the tune of $412 million in 2009, an increase of 6.4% from 2008. Bites also accounted for more than  one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2009.

The III's analysis of homeowners insurance data found that the average cost of dog bite claims was $24,840 in 2009, up slightly from $24,461 in 2008.

Since 2003, the cost of these claims has risen nearly 30%. Additionally, the number of claims has increased 4.8% to 16,586 in 2009 from 15,823 in 2008.

More than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs annually, resulting in an estimated 800,000 injuries that require medical attention, the III says, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"With over 50% of the bites occurring on the dog owner’s property, the issue is a major source of concern for insurers," the III says in its report.

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