When the clock strikes midnight on January 28th, 2022, New York State’s Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, and more will be throwing a big party…a house party to be exact. This is when New York governor Kathy Hochul’s legislation against dog-breed restrictions by insurance carriers takes effect. Up until now, home insurance carriers that were approved to offer insurance policies in New York were permitted to turn-away prospective customers based solely on the breed of dog the customer owned.
Each homeowners’ insurance carrier had its own list of forbidden breeds. If you were looking for a new home insurance policy, you were going to be asked about any pets you owned. A restricted breed or even a dog mixed with a restricted breed, would almost always lead to a denial of your application. This underwriting rule would leave many frustrated pet owners in its wake. It wasn’t just the usual suspects either. Akitas, German Shepherds, Chows, and even Shar-peis (those wrinkly guys) were on some carriers’ NO list.
As an insurance agent it was always a difficult conversation to have. It also wasn’t the type of information we would ask someone right at the outset of doing a quote. It would be a little awkward if the conversation went from “name and address” straight to “do you have any dogs?” So, it might be 10-15 minutes of information gathering before we learned that there was a dog we couldn’t write. Again, I couldn’t lead with that question, but wished I did.
Why was this even a thing? Why were insurance carriers so adamant about the type of dog they’d refuse coverage for? One word: Liability. A homeowner’s insurance policy has a liability component to it. The average policy has about $300,000 in liability coverage on it. The average cost for a dog bite claim in 2020 was $50,245. That is a 12% increase over the 2019 average. That’s why it was a thing. Certain breeds, Pit Bulls specifically, were deemed to not only be the most likely to bite, but also the most likely to inflict the greatest amount of injury.
It’s not easy to get insurance laws changed. This could not have been a low hurdle to clear for animal welfare advocates. The costs associated with bite claims are evident and yet the insurance industry in New York was not able to preserve the rule. This is a relief to us as an agency and to me as a dog owner.
Meet Raven, our Pit Bull mix.