Taking the Bite Out of Insurance
By Phillip Snyder, Executive Director
Published in the Englewood Sun on January 20, 2013
Several years ago, in fact sometime in the mid-1980s I watched a very distraught senior couple fighting back tears as they explained why they had to surrender their canine friend to the local humane society. They explained that they had received a letter from their insurance company refusing to renew their homeowner’s policy. The reason stated was that they owned a Rottweiler dog.
To begin with, the dog, though fairly large, with an elegant look, did not appear much like a Rottweiler. I asked them if their pet had ever bitten anyone or displayed aggressive tendencies. They replied that their friend had been with them since puppyhood, and had never growled or lunged at anyone. Again, this was the 80’s and the insurance issue was a new one to me. At that time I thought I had heard all the reasons people give when having to surrender their pet, so this presented a new and very disturbing issue.
Hoping to help this couple keep their family together, I contacted the State Insurance Commissioner. To my surprise I learned that this policy was being put in place by insurance companies, because of the growing number of liability cases from reported dog bites. Though the commissioner seemed understanding and sympathetic, he was unable to intervene.
The breed of dogs most considered to be of concern has fluctuated throughout the years. In earlier times, signs saying “BAD DOG” or” DOG ON DUTY” used to feature outlandish drawings of furious looking German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers. In more modern times many tend to exploit “Pit Bulls” or “Rottweilers.”
An article in Forbes lists the 10 riskiest dog breeds for homeowners and renters. They are Pit Bull & Staffordshire Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Chow-Chow, Great Dane, Presa Canario, Akita, Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky. They also mention wolf-hybrid as number 11. This domestic dog-wolf mix, has caused controversy for many years. The article states that the insurance companies tend to deny coverage for the first four breeds, most often.
It does appear that some insurance companies will still insure any breed or mix thereof, if the dog does not have an aggressive past. There are some companies that have a special premium for dogs possibly at a higher cost. There are also companies that seem to work from the list, regardless of any past bites
Their thinking may be that it costs less to lose a few customers than to pay out large claims for injuries.
It is wise to check with your agent before bringing any dog that may be classified as risky into your home. This could be the safest way to avoid any insurance issues. It is certainly better to be safe than sorry.
Suncoast Humane Society and many other animal shelters inform families adopting these pets of potential insurance issues. Not only do we want these pets adopted into permanent homes, we want them to avoid the heartache of the couple mentioned above.
Oh, and as for the couple and their kinda-sorta Rottweiler, they changed insurance companies and lived happily ever after.