Massachusetts Bill H. 918 Would Prevent Insurers from Discriminating by Breed
Those who’ve lived through a hurricane can tell you insurance companies are always looking for ways to not pay out on claims. Discrimination by dog breed is just another way for insurers to likewise not pay out on dog bite liability claims which is why Massachusetts Representative Anne Gobi has proposed bill H. 918 which states:
No insurance company offering homeowners insurance coverage in Massachusetts issuing a policy or contract insuring against liability for injury to any person or injury to or destruction of property arising out of ownership or lease of residential property shall refuse to issue or renew, cancel or charge or impose an increased premium or rate of such a policy or contract based in whole or in part, upon the harboring of any specific breed or breeds of dog upon such real property.
Is insurance discrimination by dog breed such a problem that a bill has to be passed to prevent it? Yes!
In fact, insurers even have a “black list,” though they claim they don’t, of the top 12 supposedly bitingest dog breeds. What insurers won’t tell you is that these breeds are also some of the most popular breeds out there, so yes, of course there are going to be more dog bite claims even as there is no change in the statistical likelihood of those breeds to bite (if indeed such a statistic were even calculable since true population data is often unknowable). In other words, denying liability insurance to owners of specific breeds of dog is just another way for insurers to get out of paying claims; denying liability insurance to owners of specific breeds of dog is not because those dog breeds are any more statistically likely to bite.
And yes, insurance companies discriminating against specific breeds is like a back-door breed ban. Just ask anyone in the military who has ever lost their dog to a base-wide ban while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Yes, that really happened. The companies that run base housing were forced to ban specific breeds of dog on bases by the insurance companies who refused to insure them otherwise.
And yes, insurance dog breed discrimination has forced people to give up their pets and it has kept people from adopting otherwise perfectly adoptable pets. For instance, Massachusetts dog owner Deborah Wall told the Taunton Daily Gazette,
. . . when she went looking for a new dog, she thought about buying a pit bull. After checking with her insurer, she decided to adopt a dog that wasn’t on a list of dogs that would cause her to lose her insurance.
Alyssa Krieger of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said her shelter has a 3-year-old pit bull named Princess that was given up because the owners could not obtain insurance.
“Now she finds herself in a shelter, up for adoption because the insurance company said, ‘No, you can’t have that dog,’” Krieger told the committee.
Again, insurance discrimination by breed is a back-door breed ban, and, like any form of discrimination, it needs to be stopped.