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Insurance Agents Speak Out on Pit Bulls

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.”

15 comments to Insurance Agents Speak Out on Pit Bulls

  • I am ashamed that pitties are stereotyped because of a truly ignorant media and populace. I have been bitten 4 times, blood drawn each time, by a dog. All my life I grew up around ‘large and aggressive’ breeds as rotties, pitties, huskies, dobies, and german shepards. But my first and EVERY bite I ever received was by America’s sweetheart dog the labrador! I am more afraid of a Labrador retriever than a pittie or rottie. And I’ve been bitten by all the colors of lab you can have: yellow, chocolate and black. The ‘large and aggressive’ breed dogs I have been around were loyal, smart, playful and most of all LOVING. I was an 80’s child and had a bit of fear of dobies as they were portrayed in the late 80’s and early 90’s as ‘attack dogs.’ Until a friend of mine had one, and this sweet dog was fully trained to attack on command, and was fiercely protective of her home and space…but she was the ‘momma’ dog that also lay by my girlfriend’s newborn’s crib and alerted her and her husband with ferocious barking when the baby somehow stopped breathing one night. That dog saved that little girl’s life. She protected me, her family, and her pups when she became a mom herself. I can’t say enough that a dog, cat, or mouse is a product of the environment it is raised in. JUST like children. I have 4 cats who are all trained to sit on command, fetch, stay, and they are clicker trained. People are shocked when they see how ‘clever’ or smart our cats are, and I just say, every cat, EVERY animal is that smart, give them a chance and train them! I have never had a negative interaction with a pittie, other than me feeling sorry for it seeing one abandoned, or abused. Every pittie, dobie, german shepard and rottie I have ever met or known was THE sweetest and kindest dog EVER. Pitties are awesome! Check this out and share! http://www.pawnation.com/2010/05/17/pit-bull-in-a-wheelchair-inspires-comforts-disabled-kids/

  • ”Why do companies underwrite by breed? Mainly because their experience with certain breeds indicates a strong likelihood of a future loss.” Duh … it’s not the dog, it’s the owner. What the agent may really be saying is that bad owners raise bad pit bulls which causes insurance companies not to write policies. But the insurance company doesn’t blame the owner (the cause), it blames the pit bull (the effect).

  • Right on Rod@GoPetFriendly, my sentiments exactly…it is not the breed but the owner. More Pit Bulls have enough going against them without insurance companies adding to their discrimination. Good luck to all those responsible pit bull owners…

  • trish

    what insurence companys in nj will give you homeowners insurence if you have a pit?

  • See today’s post on Canine Good Citizen certificates. And you can try State Farm in NJ.

  • Michele, what do the insurance companies that you talked to do when a GSD, a Rottie, a Doberman, an Akita, a Boxer, a Lab, a Retriever etc etc etc bites? Do owners of those breeds have their insurance cancelled after a bite too?

  • Everything depends on the specific insurance company, but overall, yes, the homeowner loses coverage. In some cases, the homeowner may have to give up the dog in order to get a renewal policy or the homeowner will have to pay a lot of money–and get a policy on the dog–for in the $100,000 range.

  • Always nice to stumble across a new blog this good I will be coming back for certain!

  • Christian

    I just dropped Allstate in San Diego, CA and went with Farmers. They do not have a breed ban. I actually increased my liability insurance and dropped my premium. Go figure. My new agent did tell me that if my dogs bite anyone and a claim is made then I will likely be dropped. He stated that it didn’t matter the breed. I completely understand that, and am happy that I now have some assurance that I will not loose my house and belongings if my dogs actually bite someone. By the way, I have had four large dogs (one was over 145lbs.) and not one of them has ever show aggression towards any person. I think that dog owners need to embrace their ability to impact the insurance market. The Farmers agent stated that he has insured a multitude of people that were longtime customers of other companies once they discovered their specific breed of dog wasn’t covered. Happy insurance shopping to all of you.

  • Thanks Christian,
    I also found that you need to shop around, and that there are insurance cos. that do not discriminate. Glad you found one.

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  • Great post, love the blog!