Canine Mutiny: Dog Owners Fight Insurers
By M.P. McQUEEN, The Wall Street Journal
Dog owners are biting back at the insurance industry.
There is a push by lawmakers and animal-welfare groups to ban the growing insurance-industry practice of refusing to write homeowners' policies for people who own dogs of certain breeds. Some big insurers, including Allstate Corp. and Farmers Insurance Group, won't cover homes in some states if certain breeds are present. Others exclude the breeds from liability coverage or charge extra for it. The so-called vicious-breed lists include such popular pooches as German shepherds, Akitas and Siberian huskies, along with Alaskan Malamutes, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, American pit bull terriers and their cousins.
The practice is spurring rising complaints by dog owners that their homeowners' and renters' policies have been dropped, or they have been denied coverage, because their dog is on the list. They say the rules unfairly link well-behaved family pets with aggressive miscreants responsible for high-profile attacks.
At least nine states, including Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin, now have bills pending that would prevent insurance companies from dropping or refusing customers because of their dog's breed. In Massachusetts, a proposed bill has been set aside for further study. (Insurance rules and rates are state-regulated.) In 2003, the Michigan insurance commissioner issued an administrative ruling banning the practice in that state. The legislation is supported by animal-welfare organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, the American Kennel Club, and local pet and breeders' advocacy groups.