Pet advocates seeking ban on dog breed-based discrimination for property insurance

Proponents of a bill banning property insurers from discriminating based on dog breed gave emotional testimonies during a hearing Wednesday about the difficult choice between home security and not having their pet.

Through testimony submitted, a joint coalition of animal rights activists wrote that the majority of property insurers denied or limited coverage to homeowners and renters because of certain breeds of dogs in their homes, including pit bulls, as well as boxers, schnauzers, Great Danes, and more large breeds because of misunderstandings gives that these breeds are more likely to bite.

Jill Vacchina Dobbs, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Northern Nevada, described a family who had to give up their dog after their father lost his job and their only affordable housing option did not allow pit bull-type dogs.

“It’s the most heartbreaking to see now having to find a loving home for an animal that already has a loving family,” said Vacchina Dobbs during the hearing. “The emotional impact on these two girls and this father was absolutely heartbreaking.”

An exhibit submitted in support of the Humane Society’s bill contained 80 responses from residents of Nevada struggling to find accommodation due to the breed of their dog, including people denied the renter’s insurance and some who did were forced to give up their dog for safe living.

The bill, SB103, would prohibit a property insurer from discriminating based solely on the breed of a dog housed or owned on the property, unless the individual dog is known or declared dangerous or malicious by other local or state laws . And property insurers are likely to continue to ask other questions about a pet on the property, such as a dog’s bite history or the size of a dog.

The legislation is part of a growing movement supported by animal rights groups to protect certain breeds that have historically been regulated by insurance companies, and some states have already taken action. Pennsylvania law states that “no liability policy or bond issued may … prohibit coverage of any particular breed of dog.”

Proponents of the bill, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society, argued that a dog’s nature should be considered based on that individual dog’s behavior and history, rather than a dog’s breed, and many , including a major sponsor of the bill, Senator Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), pointed out that there is no data to support the idea that certain races are more dangerous than others.

Opposition to the bill was limited as some insurance industry officials argued that the legislation would interfere with the normal flow of underwriting and risk assessment by preventing insurers from using risk-based pricing, which in turn meant that lower-risk customers would pay more for the subsidy was paid by the customers who represent a higher risk.

Scheible dismissed the objection to the bill at the beginning of their presentation, arguing that the opposition’s written testimony did not contain reliable data to prove that one breed of dog is more dangerous than another.

“Overall, an increase in the volume or cost of dog bite claims does not mean that certain breeds are more dangerous than others,” Scheible said.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first for the bill and no further meetings or action are planned on the bill. The committee did not vote on the bill.

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