Dog Bites: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Wolf Hybrids Excluded by Farmers Insurance

| by Denise A Justin

On Feb. 12 Farmers Group, Inc., announced that it has notified California policyholders that bites by Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and Wolf Hybrids will no longer be covered by homeowners’ insurance, according to NBC4 News.

California homeowners will be notified of this change as their policies come up for renewal, the report states.

The reason is simple. It just costs the companies too much to continue coverage for these breeds because of the rise in the number of bites and the cost of settling the escalating damage claims, says the company.

“We reviewed our liability claim history and we determined that three breeds accounted for more than 25% of dog bite claims,” said Farmers Group spokeswoman Erin Freeman. “In addition, these three breeds caused more harm when they attacked than any other breed.”

A May 2012 article on reported that insurance companies paid out almost $479 million in dog-bite claims nationwide in 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This was up from a total of $412 million in 2009 and $413 million in 2010.

Pit Bull advocates, rescue groups and trainers have criticized the decision by Farmers, saying that it condemns the breed, which is not inherently vicious, rather than penalizing irresponsible owners.

Farmers is not the only insurance company that is reviewing its records and finding ways to limit an ever-increasing level of liability for dog bites, according to the NBC report. U.S. insurance companies have seen a 50% rise in payments to people who were attacked by dogs in just eight years, according to data from the Insurance Information Institute.

Interactive Map: Dogbite Claims

The NBC report cites the severe mauling and resultant death of Emako Mendoza in 2011 in San Diego, California, as an example. A woman and her daughter were convicted in that case on Monday, Feb. 11, 2012, of involuntary manslaughter and two counts each of owning a mischievous animal that caused death.

Emako Mendoza stepped outside her home to get a newspaper in June of 2011 and was mauled by the neighbors' two Pit Bulls. She suffered a heart attack and her left arm and leg had to be amputated. Mendoza died six months later.

(Read: Mother, Daughter Convicted in Deadly Pit Bull Attack on 75-Year-Old Emako Mendoza)

In an effort to curtail the skyrocketing costs that result from these tragic situations, insurers across the country, like Farmers, are now asking customers to sign waivers acknowledging that bites will not be covered under certain circumstances.

Some companies are charging people extra for Pit Bulls and other breeds with high bite records. Some are refusing to cover dog bites altogether.

The report states that the majority of insurers have a “one-bite rule,” which covers an initial bite but no subsequent bites by the same animal.

One critic wrote, “We think it's ridiculous that Farmers is going to continue to cover 75% of their dog bite claims. They should exclude ANY dog with a prior documented bite history, without regard to breed.”

Read also: Dog Bites Cost Insurance Companies $500 Million in 2011