“Dangerous Dog Breeds” and Home Owner’s Insurance Redux

Several months ago, I published two posts on insurance companies refusing to cover people with dogs on their “dangerous breed” lists. You can find them here and here. I was very proud of them and I think I included great tips for people trying to get coverage. But, I don’t have a massive readership (though you are a very faithful group, thank you). So old posts eventually disappear.

I think this topic is important enough that I wrote a new post on it on my other blog, Hands on Home Buyer. And I wondered if it was bad manners or too self-promoting to cross post back here. But I decided to link to it and here’s why.

Golden Retriever on Bed

Obligatory "dog shot" to keep you from getting bored with reading and going to play Farmville on Facebook.

You may read about cities and provinces where certain dog breeds are banned. And when you hear about a dog who got loose accidentally being killed because of a breed ban, you’re shocked and horrified. But sometimes a small thing that affects you personally can move you more than a big thing that happens “somewhere else.”

I know it’s true for me.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I lost my insurance coverage. Not because of my dogs but because I lived in a poor, predominately African American neighborhood. Because insurance companies were prohibited by law from refusing coverage for certain neighborhoods, they started withdrawing from entire cities. My neighbor who had homeowner’s insurance through Prudential for 30 years without making a claim had his insurance canceled shortly after mine was.

Because I had a mortgage, I had to find coverage fast. I ended up paying over $1000 a year to insure a $74,000 house made of brick. Families who owned houses (made from cheesier materials) outside the city worth over $300,000 were paying $300 a year.

I had always known that many companies had policies that hurt poor people and minorities but witnessing it first hand woke me up.

And that’s the long version of why I decided to link back to a post on Hands on Home Buyer that links back to Something Wagging This Way Comes.

You can check it out here.

And let me know about your situation. Have you been denied coverage because of your pets? Do you know someone who has? How did you deal with it?

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Comments

  1. I rent, so no experience with home owners insurance. But even finding an apartment to rent with a Pit Bull is not an experience I wish on anyone. Especially in NYC (no breed ban, but a LOT of prejudice). It helps that she lives with a Poodle and is small, and if I dress her up they think she’s cute. But when you first meet the landlord and tell him you have a Pit Bull you see the eyes dilate, the sweat start to trickle, and the veins pump, as he barely controls himself from throwing you out of his office. It’s also why I’m being robbed blind by my current landlord. Totally overcharging on the rent and zero utilities included. He knows he can do it because I’ll have a hard time finding another place to live. It’s also why so many people here give up their dogs (so many of them Pit Bulls) when they move, because it really is almost impossible to find a place that will take you in with your dog. It’s a sad state, it really is.

    I’m planning on moving by the end of the year and I want to go to the most Pit Bull friendly place in the US. But I haven’t found it yet. Let me know if you hear anything.

    • Yep, I definitely know what you’re facing. I meet a significant number of people each year who want to buy their own home, not because they want the additional cost and responsibility of homeownership, but just because they’re hoping to find safe, decent housing for themselves, their children, and their pets.

      And NY is one of the most tenant-friendly states (and city) in the country.

      I wish you luck in finding a pibble friendly home.

  2. Timm Bottoni says:

    I try to educate people who refer to this “Dangerous Breed List” whenever possible by pointing them to the source of the data – the CDC Study that it originated from – http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/images/dogbreeds-a.pdf – and the Dog Bite: Facts page here – http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Dog-Bites/dogbite-factsheet.html

    As you can see from the data it is very misleading, and old (1979-1998) and included so much confusing data that it is essentially meaningless to draw conclusions from.

    We own a Siberian Husky and while any large dog can be dangerous, I find it bizarre that the breed would be considered dangerous because one of the reasons they end up in shelters is because they make about the worst home guard dog you could imagine. Typical breed characteristics include their tendency to greet every stranger as their best friend, especially kids. Pretty much any person or child could walk into our house, and take our dog on a leash and walk him home. We worry more about him being stolen than him hurting a human. A cat, squirrel, rabbit, or other non-dog small animal however I wouldn’t bet on making it out of our fenced in yard.

    Timm

    • Y’know, Timm, I don’t think the municipalities and companies with breed prejudiced laws and policies are even pretending to look at statistics anymore. I think we’ve moved to accepting anecdotes as facts on this issue.

      I’m waiting to see Golden Retrievers come up on a list some day. So many people get them thinking they’re childproof without realizing they also need training and work.

      Oh well, I hope you lock your “dangerous” Siberian Husky inside while you’re at work. I’d hate to hear he’d licked someone to death before following them home.

      • As it happens, Golden Retrievers — and other so-called family pets — are far more likely to injure children than pit bulls, according to a recent study of dangerous bites at a Colorado hospital. Of course, like other studies, this one is skewed because people don’t tend to keep bully breeds when they’re starting families.

        And you’re right, almost all the data is purely anecdotal — and the reactions generally irrational — at this point, in part because bite reporting and definitions are so erratic.

        Good article! Glad you directed us there.

        • I think what people tend to forget about the data is that if there is a higher percentage of a certain breed, bite incidents will also be higher *for that breed.* Something to also remember for Pit Bulls/Rottweilers/etc., is that there is a very high percentage of them not in the best homes. As well as the fact that small dog bites more often than not don’t get reported.

          I share this pretty often: I worked at a boarding facility for 2+ years and was bitten 3 times, all 3 times were small dogs (Chihuahuas and a Dachshund), and most of the dogs we had were Bully types.

          • sorry for interrupting your conversation, but as it happens, i’ve been bitten by a daschund as well. and Georgia was recently attacked by one too, off leash and raring to get at her jugular [or toes, since he would have been too short to reach further up than that.]

            i find it quite unfair that littledogs get away with bad behaviour, just because they’re little :(

          • The other thing to note is that the statistics comes from people receiving treatments for bites. If someone doesn’t go to a doctor, the bite will never come to the attention of the CDC.

    • It always shocks me that Siberian huskies are on those lists. My childhood dog was a sibe and she was the sweetest dog in the world, tolerated pretty much anything. In fact, I never even heard her bark. Not once in her whole life. The idea of Nikita being labeled dangerous is beyond baffling. I am so glad my parents never encountered such awful discrimination.

      • And that is a good reminder that this is not really about the dogs at all but about their people. A mistreated or poorly socialized lab is going to be a much greater danger to anyone than a well-trained and socialized German Shepherd.

        I personally think that people should be licensed to have dogs, instead of dogs being licensed.

  3. and 1 more comment here –

    rufus [being a malamute] is listed as a dangerous breed and isn’t allowed to mix with other dogs at the boarding kennels here [though he’s never ever bitten a dog in his life]. it was the sme with jordan because he was part bully. a gentler dog would have been hard to find.

    breed specific laws are stupid.

    • Yup. My Poodle’s more reactive to dogs on leash than my Pit Bull.

      We were attacked by an off leash dog in January. Charlie (my Poodle) was badly injured, and became incredibly reactive to dogs afterwards. In a certain light it was comical, imagine a Poodle and a Pit Bull walking down the street, and the Poodle screaming bloody murder at your dog, while the Pit Bull ambles along peacefully.

      Thankfully he’s conquered his reactivity and fully healed. So I’m allowed to laugh at the image.

  4. All great posts, Pamela. I always thought once we are able to buy a home, things would be easier and I could own as many nutty rescue dogs as I want. But perhaps this is not the case.

    I still don’t really understand why a dog would affect home insurance. Are they concerned a more “dangerous” breed will destroy the house? I could see why it would affect medical insurance, perhaps, or even life insurance, but home? It seems strange and just an excuse to charge people more.

  5. The reason it affects home insurance is that you’re liable if your dog bites someone, and they’ll go after your homeowner’s insurance for the money.

    I agree with Georgia, I’ve had a lot more trouble with little dogs and biting, and yet they’re the ones allowed in stores and people laugh at them when they behave badly. I don’t think it’s funny. I’m tired of people passing laws based on ignorance, misinformation and bias.

    • I’ve never had a small dog but I’ve always wondered how much of their bad behavior is because people just laugh at it. No one would laugh if a 75 pound dog jumped on you or barked and snarled whenever you tried to sit on the couch next to it.

      And, of course, the nasty little dogs create a bad reputation that some perfectly fine little dogs also have to live with. I have to be careful not to be prejudiced myself here.

  6. Thank you for the info. It is too bad that because of bad owners that any of these rules exist. Thank you for sharing and bringing it to our attention. We are looking to buy soon and appreciate knowing what we are in for.

    • The good news is that some companies have no breed restrictions in place. The biggest company I know of is State Farm. But I suspect you can find regional insurers that might be ok too.

      Of course, if you tell an insurer you have lab mixes instead of husky mixes, you’ll probably be fine.

  7. Cheri Spain says:

    I have Dobermans and I am often denied insurance because of the breed of dog I chose to own. It is very frustrating but I have found that State Farm does not have breed discrimination. I have had them for years and will always support them. As a consumer we have the power it we all support business that do not breed discriminate more companies will follow. We all know business follows the money so be a wise consumer and only support those that support PAWSitive dog and cat life.

  8. This is terrible and I can’t believe it. I’m in Ontario Canada and we have nothing like that. We get insurance and it has nothing to do with our dogs.

    Of course Pitbulls are banned in Ontario, but other than that term life or mortgage insurance we get have nothing to do with any other breed of dog.

    • Canada may have stronger restrictions on insurers than here in the states. But I know many people in Ontario would be happy to see the breed ban end there.

  9. I find discriminatory actions by insurance companies based on dog breed to be very distasteful. It’s the dog owners who are mostly at fault because they don’t properly train and socialize their animals. Any dog has the potential to bite if they aren’t properly trained and it doesn’t matter whether the dog is large or small.