Let My Family Stay

November 17, 2013  


Finding families for homeless animals is difficult enough without having to battle breed discrimination in the housing and insurance industries.  Too often, loving families are forced to make the heartbreaking decision to surrender their animals or get evicted.  While it’s easy to blame a landlord, there is usually an insurance company denying coverage behind the landlord’s decision.

The insurance industry is highly regulated by the states, particularly when the public is being harmed.  When insurance companies started “red-lining,” meaning recognizing the correlation between living in certain neighborhoods and increased claims against homeowners’ policies, they began to refuse policies to people in these high-risk neighborhoods.  Even though there was actuarial justification (an identified statistical correlation between the characteristic and increased risk), the legislatures and courts prohibited insurance companies from engaging in red-lining.  Now, despite the inability of insurance companies to come up with any actuarial justification for discriminating against particular breeds of dogs, they are continually denying policies to homeowners based on the breeds of dogs who reside at the home.[1]

Larry Cunningham, Assistant Professor of Law and Director of the Criminal Justice Clinic at Texas Tech University School of Law, recommends that the legislature take action to correct this injustice, as they’ve done before.[2]  Two states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have taken such action and enacted legislation prohibiting breed discrimination by insurance companies. Several states have introduced similar bills to no avail.

To put things into perspective, over 93% of the money spent by insurance companies to pay out claims goes to property damage claims.  Liability claims are less than 7% of payouts, with dog bite claims filling only a negligible portion of that.[3]

Over half of the country’s population resides with companion animals, and there is surmounting evidence as to the benefits associated with making these animals members of our families.  Physical benefits such as lowering high blood pressure and risk of heart disease have been documented, as well as psychological benefits such as helping people cope with depression and other emotional issues.  So why aren’t our laws protecting this large part of our lives?

Earlier this month we helped Bishop the Pit Bull find a foster home until his family can find rental housing that does not discriminate against pit bull terrier dogs.  In this country, over 9,000 animals are killed every day at shelters because we don’t have homes for them.  How many lives can we save by assuring that insurance companies and landlords do not discriminate against people with animals?  As Janis Bradley said: “It may be time to insist that offering protection (at a price) does not give the insurance industry the right to make basic life choices for us.”[4]

[1] Larry Cunningham, The Case Against Dog Breed Discrimination by Homeowners’ Insurance Companies, 11 Conn. Ins. L.J. 1, 3 (2005)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Bradley, Janis. Dogs Bite: But Balloons and Slippers Are More Dangerous. Berkeley, CA: James and Kenneth Publishers, 2005, p. 146

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6 Responses to “Let My Family Stay”
  1. Kimberly roberts says:

    Someone shoukd copy this article and start a petition in every state! I would but i wouldnt know what to do with it once finished.

  2. Angie H. says:

    As an employee and agent for a State Farm Insurance agent, State Farm as a company, does NOT discriminate against any breed of dog. Having said that, I have no doubt that there are individual agents who are biased and make their own decisions, and that is incredibly sad. As a whole, the company does not discriminate, no matter what state, city, or town that you may reside in. We do not care about if BSL is active in your area. As long as the rest of the application criteria are met, your breed of dog is of no matter to us. We also do not charge any extra for having a particular breed of dog.

    It is disappointing what it going on in the industry and how many lives it affects on a daily basis. Thank goodness there are a number of companies out there that will insure you properly.

  3. Donna Morelli says:

    I live in PA and just had this conversation today with an agent. He was trying to drum up business after I started an auto policy. I told him I have two pits. He said no way. I said it’s illegal in PA to discriminate…

    This is not the first time this has happened. We OWN a home because of my dogs largely, because I couldn’t find a rental. This is bs. I insure with Liberty Mutual only because they were good enough to meet my dog before judging him–

    I need to know what law there is in PA that says they can’t discriminate and how can it be enforced, or at least, call attention to agencies who don’t abide by it.

    Thanks… ready to act in PA
    Donna Morelli

    • Angie H. says:

      Donna–I am not sure that there is any real law on the books anywhere stating it is illegal for an insurance company to discriminate against breeds of dogs. Anything that an insurance company wants to doin that particular state is filed through the state’s Department of Insurance or similar department.

      While a company itself may not discriminate against breeds like State Farm does not, there will be agents out there who have their own personal feelings/biases and may choose to not insure certain breeds of dogs. Many times, these rogue agents think they are protecting their bottom line by not accepting applications with “dangerous” dogs. They fear expensive claims and much of the rest of the BS the media has filled the heads of humans with.

      My suggestion would be to look into if your state has a Department of Insurance and start asking questions. If you feel the person you were dealing with was not representing his company’s policies, file a complaint. Be polite and factual, and follow-up on a consistent basis to show that you are serious. Also, file a complaint with the insurance company itself if you feel there was wrongdoing.