Homeowners Insurance and Dog Breed Restrictions
A dog breed's reputation can be an asset if its presence deters criminals from approaching your home, but it could also be a liability if it scares off home insurers as well. Homeowners insurance companies are increasingly likely to include dog breed restrictions in the conditions of their insurance agreements. In some cases they may refuse coverage altogether, just because Fido's breed has some bad press. To understand how your breed impacts your homeowner's insurance, you'll need to look at references to dog breed restrictions in both the policy and state law.
Which Breeds are Restricted?
An insurance policy is a contract. The terms of the contract are laid out in the agreement. Homeowners insurance policies may refer to dog breed restrictions by a variety of different terms, such as:
- Excluded breeds;
- Aggressive dogs;
- Dangerous dogs;
- Prohibited breeds; or
- Other variations of these terms.
Restricted breeds will be listed in the contract, as an addendum, or the contract will reference a third party list. Insurers create their breed lists from a variety of different sources. These lists may be based on government data or private studies, or haphazardly assembled based on whatever breeds have been mentioned in news items. Dog breed restrictions are not typically limited to purebred animals and mixed breeds that include a restricted breed may also be included in coverage restrictions.
Not all insurers restrict coverage based on dog ownership or discriminate between dog breeds. One solution to homeowner insurance coverage problems arising from dog breed restrictions may simply involve finding an insurer that doesn't restrict coverage on account of your best friend's breed.
Another option involves looking to see whether state law has limited your insurer's ability to enact dog breed restrictions.
State Laws Limiting Breed Restrictions
Critics say that breed discrimination is inaccurate, misleading, unfair, based on bad science, and unclear since the breed of a dog is surprisingly difficult to determine, particularly with mixed breeds.
Some states have enacted laws that prevent insurers from enacting dog breed restrictions on homeowner insurance coverage. Although insurance issues are generally viewed as contractual and therefore look primarily at the terms of the agreement, insurance is highly regulated by states because of the importance of insurance to the public interest.
States have chosen to exercise their authority to block dog breed restrictions in homeowners insurance in different ways. The state of Pennsylvania specifically forbids dog breed restrictions in providing homeowner insurance. In Michigan, the state Office of Financial and Insurance Services has interpreted their state laws relating to homeowners insurance to prevent restrictions or coverage denials based on breed restrictions.
Although few states currently prevent homeowners insurance providers from discriminating among breeds, many states already prohibit municipal breed bans and bills have been presented in Massachusetts and New York proposing insurance underwriting guidelines for homeowners with dogs.
Get a Case Review by an Injury Attorney
Your big mutt protects you and your home. If your dog's breed has complicated your ability to acquire homeowners insurance or there is an argument about coverage you may need some help figuring out how to protect your furry friend. An attorney experienced in handling injury claims can offer a case review to help determine your rights.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.