AIA: Conn. Dog Breed Bill Harmful to Consumers

May 5, 2005

A bill (HB 6543) to prohibit homeowners insurers from underwriting and pricing policies based on the presence of certain dog breeds would force non-dog owners to subsidize the costs of dog bites, which is unfair, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

“Dog bites cause substantial financial losses in this country every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites per year, which cost more than $1 billion annually,” said Laura Kersey, AIA assistant vice president, northeast region.

“The property/casualty insurance industry alone paid roughly $345.5 million in 2002, which accounted for almost one-quarter of the total number of homeowners insurance liability claims. In 2002 (the last year for which data is available), the average cost to settle a dog bite claim was $16,000. One of the reasons these claims are so costly is that often, the bites result in scarring,” Kersey explained.

According to the CDC, the following purebreds have been responsible for the greatest number of dog bite-related fatalities over the 20 year period from 1979 to 1998. The breeds are listed in declining order of fatalities:

* “Pit Bull”
* Rottweiler
* German Shepherd Dog
* “Husky”
* Malamute
* Doberman Pinscher
* Chow Chow
* Great Dane
* Saint Bernard

“Restricting the ability of insurers to underwrite and price coverage based on these breed factors will require non-dog owners and owners of lower risk breeds, that are less likely to cause dog bite claims, to subsidize the owners of these higher risk breeds, which is unfair,” added Kersey.

This legislation passed the House this week by a vote of 77-70 and will now be sent to the Senate. AIA is urging the Senate to defeat the measure.

“This bill is unnecessary and will result in higher costs for the majority of homeowners insurance policyholders in Connecticut. The homeowners insurance market here is large and diverse, and insurers have varying appetites for risk and different underwriting guidelines with respect to dogs,” said Kersey.

“Although some insurers may impose such restrictions, avoid underwriting, or charge extra for higher risk breeds with documented histories of biting, other insurers may be willing to write such risks. This bill is bad public policy during a time when insurers need underwriting flexibility in order to maintain the availability of homeowners insurance,” concluded Kersey.

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