Breed Bias in Home Insurance

Dear Jack Russell Terriers, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Labs, Goldens and friends,

Welcome aboard the breed discrimination bus!

Insurance companies are in the business of making money. One of the ways they do that is by minimizing their risks in writing a policy. Some insurance companies consider how likely the homeowner might be to file a claim for injury caused by a dog. So instead of having a qualified behaviorist evaluate each dog as an individual – the only true (albeit costly) means of assessing a dog’s potential for human aggression – they rely on various other sources for their information:

Where are insurance companies getting their lists of what they perceive to be “aggressive” dogs? Without knowing, it’s difficult for home- and dog owners to discern which breeds are acceptable and which aren’t.

As it turns out, there’s no standard list insurance companies follow, but dogs can factor in when an insurer is reviewing your new customer application. And it’s not just the breeds typically thought of as aggressive, such as pit bulls, Rottweilers, chow chows, Doberman pinschers and German shepherds.


“The real problem is that there is so much conflicting information (about aggressive breeds), that you don’t know what to believe,” says Donna Popow, senior director of knowledge resources for the Insurance Institute of America, a nonprofit offering insurance education in Malvern, Pa. “Any dog will bite, given the right set of circumstances.”

True, but most dogs don’t bite. And fear of having to pay out on dog bite claims is an overhyped bit of hysteria to my mind, used by more than just insurance companies in advocating discrimination based on a dog’s physical apprearance.

So what can a dog owner in need of home insurance do?

Before telling your insurance company that you have what they may consider an aggressive dog, [Ledy] Van Kavage, of the Best Friends Animal Society, suggests you have some coverage lined up with another insurance company. Insurance companies differ on breeds they deem aggressive and some go by which breeds in your state have bitten the most.

Van Kavage also cautions that when you own a mixed-breed dog, don’t offer your insurance company a guess on what the predominant breed in the mix is. “It’s impossible to guess correctly what the breed is unless you have a DNA test done,” Van Kavage says.

And I guess you definitely would not want to say you have a Golden-Pit-Chiweenie mix.

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