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Gianaris Bill Aims to Prevent Insurance Companies From Hiking Premiums Based On Dog Breeds

The bill would prohibit insurance providers from increasing rates or denying homeowners’ insurance depending on the type of dog they keep (Duncan Sanchez, Unsplash)

June 9, 2021 By Michael Dorgan

People who own pit bulls, Rottweilers and other dogs deemed aggressive often struggle to find homeowners’ insurance or face higher premiums.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris plans to change that and has sponsored legislation that would stop insurance companies from hiking rates or denying people homeowners’ insurance based on the type of dog they keep. His bill passed the senate Tuesday.

The lawmaker says that many insurance companies will not provide homeowners’ insurance to people who keep certain types of dogs—or raise their premiums— based on the claim that some breeds are dangerous and bite.

Gianaris, who represents western Queens, says that higher premiums add to the cost of home ownership, often forcing canine lovers to forgo owning or keeping such dogs.

“People should never be forced to choose between an affordable place to live and the pets who are members of their families,” Gianaris said in a statement yesterday. “This proposal would make it easier for New Yorkers to give good homes to even more animals in need.”

Gianaris said that there is no statistical connection between dog breeds and bite incidents, citing a white paper that states that dogs such as Great Danes are no more dangerous than corgis and chihuahuas.

Dog behavior, Gianaris said, is more a function of training than breeding.

The legislation would ban insurance providers from charging higher premiums, refusing to issue or renew insurance, or canceling policies based on the breed of dog a homeowner owns.

The bill is now before the Assembly Codes Committee.

According to the text of the bill, insurance providers can currently charge homeowners higher premiums even though their dog may not have ever caused an injury to a person.

“This erroneous practice has placed pet owners in an undeserved bind,” the bill reads.

The bill also states that insurance companies have avoided losses in the past because of the additional layer of security a dog provides in deterring home burglaries.

“It is unacceptable that now insurance companies would want the ability to deny coverage based on the exact same breed of dog that may have protected the homeowners and the insurance company from loss,” the bill states.

The animal advocacy group NYS Animal Protection Federation said that it is backing the legislation.

“Insurance companies routinely stand in the way by denying homeowners insurance or charging exorbitant premiums if you own a breed that the insurers consider aggressive—like pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers or Great Danes,” said Libby Post, the executive director of NYSAPF.

“This discrimination is unfounded and based on sensationalized media coverage of dog bites,” Post said.

Post said that this approach by insurance companies forces homeowners with certain types of dogs to give up their pets, which ultimately sees many canines end up in animal shelters.

“Senator Gianaris’ bill … [would end] one of the most unfair injustices pet owners are subjected to by insurance companies,” Post said.

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