When I started writing about Pit Bulls and homeowners’ insurance, I had no idea that this would turn into a series of posts. I was pleased to hear that a friend of mine is purchasing her first house, and angered that she is having trouble finding affordable home owners’ insurance if she gets a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix. This just didn’t seem to make any sense.
The first post, 8 Pit Bull Myths, debunks really insane rumors about these incredibly loyal dogs. The second was the story about my friend, Holly, and a response from an insurance agent who lives and works in New Jersey. I heard from a number of insurance agents, and decided to let them speak out on the matter.
A few told me there is an old saying in the insurance industry: “You can insure a burning building for the right price.”
Not all insurers discriminate against specific breeds. Mike Coleman, LUTCF, of State Farm in Lineville, AL, says, “We do not discriminate. It is pretty much an agent call with us. If the dog has an aggressive past (We ask if the dog has ever bitten anyone or been trained to attack.) or if I feel threatened by a dog or am otherwise approached in a threatening manner by the dog, I will usually pass on the business. We do, however, offer an exclusion that will allow us to write the home. It excludes liability and medical payments coverage if the dog is involved in the incident.”
Justin Haislip, an agent with State Farm in Orrville, OH, explains that the only dog his agency won’t cover are Pit Bulls. “The reason is that Ohio law states that you have to have a specific liability insurance policy on the dog itself,” he says.
And David Miller, CIC, CRM, and managing director at Bensman Risk Management in Chicago gave a detailed response, “I am a dog owner (our dog is an 80 lb mixed-breed, most likely including some Lab and Border Collie in his mix), so I can empathize with dog owners who do not agree with an insurance company’s decision to deny coverage based on a dog’s breed.”
“The problem is that when a dog bite occurs, the insurance company usually has to pay a very large sum of money to settle the claim. Dog bite claims, like claims involving trampoline injuries, are usually the kiss of death for a person’s home insurance policy. Unless it is a very minor claim, the person who owns the dog is virtually guaranteed that their home insurance coverage will be canceled at the next available renewal. In some cases, a company will allow the policy to continue, but only if they receive proof that the dog was euthanized.”
“Compounding this problem is the fact that insurance companies share claims information (via a service called CLUE), much like banks and credit card companies share credit information. This is done so a person cannot lie about their past claims when applying for coverage with a new company. So, if you have a dog bite claim on your homeowner’s insurance and then you are canceled, you can expect it to be very difficult to find a new company to take you as a new client.”
“Why do companies underwrite by breed? Mainly because their experience with certain breeds indicates a strong likelihood of a future loss.”
“So, can a person find homeowner’s insurance if they have a certain breed of dog? Absolutely. Two of the companies that we represent (Chubb and Chartis) do not underwrite by breed, but I can almost guarantee you that if one of our Chubb or Chartis clients has a dog bite claim, we will have to find a new policy for them once the claim is closed.”