Homeowner's Insurance and Dogs

Stephanie Pier
Canine Legislation Coordinator, AKC

If you are a dog owner who has recently experienced a problem obtaining or renewing your homeowner's insurance, you're not alone. Many frustrated individuals are finding that insurance companies sometimes deny coverage to dog owners based on a particular breed or simply because they own a dog. While the agencies are within their rights to deny coverage or charge higher premiums to whomever they choose, the AKC's Canine Legislation Department shares the concern of responsible dog owners who are being treated unfairly.

First-time applicants may discover that an insurance company will ask what breed they own and immediately reject their application. Long-term policyholders may also be refused renewal when the agent discovers the insured owns a dog. The homeowner may not have told the insurance company about owning dogs when seeking initial coverage or the company may have changed it policy towards dogs.

 The AKC believes that insurance companies should determine coverage of a dog-owning household based on the dog's deeds, not the breed. If a dog is well behaved, there is no reason to deny or cancel coverage or to charge higher premiums. In fact, dogs should be considered an asset, a natural alarm system whose bark may deter intruders and prevent potential theft.

 These inequities and prejudices against owning dogs may be addressed by legislation. In Pennsylvania, state law prohibits insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners based on their breed of dog. In New York, Sen.Dean Skelos recently sponsored a bill that would prevent agencies from discriminating against breeds. Other states, such as Washington, are slowly following this initiative.

Until such proposals are law, the following are some suggestions for coping with insurance problems.

  •  If you are seeking a homeowner's policy, shop around. Ask your dog-owning friends which company they use and if they have had problems. 
  • If one agent for a particular company turns you down, try another agent for that company. Apparently, these exclusions may not be written in stone. They may be the prejudices of an agency and not the insurance company.
  • Find an agent who will work with you to locate an insurance company that does not penalize for dog or breed ownership. Your agent should be working with your best interests in mind and not those of an insurance concern. 
  • If all else fails, consider buying a separate liability policy or separate rider to your existing policy that is specifically directed towards your dogs.
  • Every state has a Commissioner of Insurance. You can find the Commissioner's name and address in the blue pages of your phone book under "State Government" or by asking your local state senator or representative. Contact the Commissioner and request a list of all insurance companies doing business in your state. This will give you a large pool of companies to which you may direct your inquiries. If you feel you are being treated unfairly by your insurance company, share your experiences with the Commissioner.
  • Finally, visit or write your state senator or representative. Discuss your insurance problems in a forthright, friendly manner. Ask that a bill be introduced to address the unreasonable underwriting practices of some insurance companies. The Canine Legislation Department can provide you with free materials to assist you in these efforts. Contact us at 919-233-3720 or doglaw@akc.org.
For further information on homeowners' insurance vis-a-vis dog ownership see the April issue of AKC's Canine Legislative Observer, which can be found at April Canine Legislative Observer 

This article is from the AKC site, http://www.akc.org

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