Dogs & Insurance

Insurers Limit Canine Breeds for Policy Coverage

“Homes containing certain breeds of dogs have been declared uninsurable”, so begins an article in Psychology Today magazine entitled “14 Dog Breeds Blacklisted by Insurance Companies”. This will come as a surprise or even shock to some, while others are familiar with or at least aware of this practice within the insurance industry. 

While it may seem heartless, insurance companies operate on the basis of evaluating risk and the potential for insurance claims. For years they have maintained a “list of dangerous dogs” that affects their willingness to insure a home or other property and their coverage of properties and events that are insured.

The referenced article reported on an interview with an insurance industry representative who was quoted as saying: "Dog bite related claims accounted for more than one third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2013. That amounted to about $490 million, with the average claim costing close to $30,000. But actual costs can be much higher. In 2011 A Washington State Superior Court jury awarded a $2.2 million verdict to a woman who was attacked by two neighborhood pitbulls near her home in Tacoma, Washington. The woman sued the dogs' owners whose homeowners policies were unfortunately limited to $100,000 each."

The dangerous dogs list has evolved over the years and can vary from one insurance company to the next. How the dogs are grouped can also vary. For instance, certain breeds may be listed as aggressive or dangerous but insurable while others are prohibited in order for an insurance policy to be issued.

Breeds that typically show up on the list include: Pit Bulls,  Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Presa Canarios, Chows, Dobermans, Akitas, Wolf-mix, Mastiffs, Cane Corsos, Great Danes, Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies. Again, there is no prescribed set of breeds and individual insurance companies make their own determinations of which breeds to limit, if any, for purposes of their policies.

A limited number of states have passed laws prohibiting insurance companies from restricting coverage based on breeds of dogs, although this is unusual  in telling a private insurer who assumes the risk what they can and cannot cover.

Many insurance companies don’t ask about dogs when a homeowner or renter are seeking insurance policies. Or circumstances may change once a policy is in effect whereby a dog joins the home or other property after the fact. Insurance policies can also change over time to where the dog breed not on a company’s list is added to the list and the property owner (or renter) doesn’t realize it. According to Einhorn Insurance, “If you’ve been insured with the same insurance company for years, don’t assume your policy includes coverage for your dog(s). Insurance companies regularly modify what their policy will cover (and what it won’t cover). Your company may not know you have a “dangerous” dog.”

Einhorn actually takes issue with this industry practice. As noted on their Website: 

“You don’t have to move! You don’t have to give up your beloved family member!Einhorn Insurance is proud to offer dog liability insurance to responsible owners of “dangerous” breeds (as labeled by most insurance companies). Einhorn Insurance does NOT agree with the way most insurance companies stereotype strictly by a dog’s breed. We look at each dog individually and do not judge based on breed.”

“As proud Pit Bull owners and advocates, we are especially sensitive to this issue. We couldn’t imagine being discriminated against because our Pit Bulls are considered to be “dangerous” by most insurance carriers (even though they have never bit a person or animal). Einhorn Insurance offers pit bull friendly insurance and insurance for ALL dog breeds.” 

No matter one’s circumstance, or one’s opinion about such policies, it’s important to be informed rather than surprised later by way of coverage denial or a lawsuit.

(c) June 30, 2018