Blind World Magazine

Insurers Using Dog Ownership, Service Animals Included, to Deny Policies.

November 29, 2005.
Insurance Journal - USA.

Insurance companies are increasingly using ownership of certain dog breeds as a reason to deny coverage, according to KXTV News in Sacramento.

Sacramento man Ed Nelson learned of the exclusion when he went to change policies after his previous company increased his premiums. However, Nelson's dog is a German Shepherd service dog. Nelson has has a disability that's not readily apparent, but with Ace by his side, he is able to go to work everyday as an automobile mechanic. "He's with me 24-7," he said. "To be without him, I'm lost."

After shopping around, Nelson was set to change his coverage to Allied Insurance Company. However, when the company learned he had a German Shepherd, Nelson said the company declined to write his homeowner's policy unless he got rid of Ace.

According to Allied spokesperson Mike Palmer, the exclusion took effect in 2004. He said "certain breeds that have a tendency to be problematic may not qualify" for the home owner to obtain coverage.

An attorney who also trains service dogs said that's not unusual. "Dog bites make up a lot of claims they end up paying," said Dawn Capp. "They want to limit their risk." Capp said she knows of only two carriers that have no breed discrimination policies.

Nelson said he thinks exceptions should be made for service dogs without a violent history. "Because of one bad apple somewhere down the line, they're going to make me get rid of what helps me function in life," he said.

Allied has told Nelson that if Ace successfully completes the American Kennel Clubs Good Citizen Program, it would reconsider his insurance application.

Among the dog breeds that insurance companies may exclude are Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Chows, Akitas, Huskies, Great Danes and German Shepherds.

Capp said she wouldn't be surprised if there are more exclusions when a new law takes effect in January in California that allows counties to force certain breeds to be neutered and spayed. "So once counties start targeting breeds, insurance companies will very likely decide those breeds are too much of a liability," she said.

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