Pet Peeve: Insurance Industry Should Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Worry About Cat Losses

April 18, 2005

I have a bone to pick with the insurance industry. Why is an industry that loses billions on cat losses every year so hot under the collar about dogs?

You don’t have to be a poodle to know that with about 5 million dog bites reported every year, there is something going on. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites now fetch about $346 million, accounting for about one-quarter of all homeowners insurance liability claims, and the number of canine cases is rising.

OK, so there’s a problem. But it’s not fair to blame all dogs for the sins of a few. There are an estimated 50 million dogs in the U.S. So, we’re talking maybe 10 percent of the dogs causing all the claims. Talk about the tail wagging the dog!

Most insurance companies insure homeowners with dogs, that is until there is a biting incident. One no-fault nip and the insurers retreat with their tails between their legs.

Why are underwriters acting like scaredy-cats over dogs? Because they only hear about the bad puppies. They don’t know good dogs or the good things dogs do:

• In Richland, Washington, Leana Beasley’s four-year-old Rottweiler, Faith, phoned 911 when Beasley fell out of her wheelchair. Faith then barked into the receiver until a dispatcher sent help. Then the furry friend even unlocked the front door for the police.

• U.S. Customs officials use dogs to sniff out prohibited fruits and plants that are being smuggled into the country. Recently, one detector dog helped intercept 20 Mediterranean fruit flies and prevented a potential disaster for Florida’s citrus industry. The dog, Trouble, has used his nose to seize 1,800 dangerous products since going on active duty five years ago.

• Then there is Kilo, a black Labrador retriever who has assisted in more than 150 searches and helped recover 11 homicide victims in the coastal areas of Louisiana.

• In Surfside Beach, South Carolina not too long ago, about 200 people showed up at a memorial service for a co-worker, Dezo, a German shepherd canine officer. According to the Sun News, four officers stood guard around Dezo’s casket. The public safety director spoke about Dezo’s bravery. A Garth Brooks impersonator performed. After the tribute there was a procession to Hillcrest Cemetery, where Dezo was buried with complete police honors in the pet section as bagpipes played.

• Who can forget the heroics of the rescue dogs at Ground Zero and the Pentagon following the horrific attacks of Sept. 11? Years later, the dogs are still being studied for long-term health effects caused by the conditions at the crash sites.

• A U.S. bioterrorism expert recently noted that the first casualties of a bioterrorism attack could be dogs, not humans. Thus recognizing the signs in pets could help officials respond to an attack before it becomes a serious outbreak.

• Closer to home for insurers, dogs are being used to hunt down mold. Bootz, a Labrador-Great Dane mix, one of about 40 mold-sniffing dogs in the U.S., works in northeastern Pennsylvania. They offer a faster and cheaper alternative to other forms of mold detection.

It’s clear that, contrary to the popular image of canines as dumb and lazy, the vast majority of pets are intelligent, hard working and obedient members of their communities. When they aren’t being obedient and lovable, they’re sleeping. So how dangerous could they be?

There are reportedly some dog owners who work as underwriters and enforce various anti-canine policies. While it’s understandable these employees may not want to bite the hand that feeds them, perhaps it’s possible to teach these old underwriters new tricks.

Now about those cat losses …

Doodle is a mixed breed of his Golden Retriever mother and Standard Poodle father. He is a member and past president of the Society of Chartered Protective Canine Underwriters (CPCU). He is president of K-9 Special Risks in Barkeyville, Pa., with a branch office in Dog Walk, Ky. He is also a freelance reporter for Dogpatch Dispatch. Doodle can be reached at

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