June 9, 2021 by Michael Dorgan
People who own pit bulls, rottweilers, and other dogs that are considered aggressive often have difficulty finding home insurance or expect higher premiums.
State Sen. Mike Gianaris plans to change that and has passed law preventing insurance companies from raising tariffs or denying homeowner insurance based on the type of dog they keep. The Senate passed his bill on Tuesday.
Legislators say many insurance companies will not offer home insurance to people who keep certain types of dogs or increase their premiums based on the claim that some breeds are dangerous and bite.
Gianaris, who represents Western Queens, says higher premiums add to the cost of owning a home and often force dog lovers to abstain from owning or keeping such dogs.
“People should never be forced to choose between an affordable place to live and the pets that are members of their family,” 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 there was no statistical association between dog breeds and incidents of bites, citing a white paper that said dogs like Great Danes are no more dangerous than corgis and chihuahuas.
Dog behavior, Gianaris said, is a function of training rather than breeding.
Legislation would prohibit insurance providers from charging higher premiums, refusing to issue or renew insurance, or cancel policies based on a homeowner’s dog breed.
The bill is now before the Assembly Acts Committee.
According to the law, insurance companies can currently charge homeowners higher premiums, even though their dog may never have injured a person.
“This mistaken practice has put pet owners in an undeserved dilemma,” says the draft law.
The bill also states that insurance companies have historically avoided losses due to the added layer of security a dog provides in deterring home break-ins.
“It is unacceptable that insurance companies now want to be able to deny coverage based on the exact same breed of dog that may have protected the homeowner and the insurance company from loss,” the bill reads.
The NYS Animal Protection Federation said it supports the legislation.
“Insurance companies routinely stand in the way by refusing home insurance or charging exorbitant premiums if you own a breed that insurers consider aggressive – like pit bulls, sheepdogs, rottweilers or great danes,” said Libby Post, managing director of NYSAPF.
“This discrimination is unfounded and is based on sensational media coverage of dog bites,” said Post.
Post said this approach by insurance companies is forcing homeowners with certain types of dogs to abandon their pets, which ultimately leads to many dogs ending up in shelters.
“Senator Gianaris’ bill … [would end] one of the most unfair injustices that insurance company pet owners face, “Post said.