Society

Connecticut Legislature Considers Bill That Would End Homeowners' Insurance Discrimination Against Pit Bulls

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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Republican Rep. Brenda Kupchick of Fairfield told the Hartford Courant in January that she was introducing legislation to bar insurance companies issuing a homeowners’ policy in Connecticut from inquiring about or discriminating against a ‘"ully breed" dog, the Huffington Post reported.

Rep. Kupchick explained that “constituents have difficulty getting a policy if they own pit bull-type terriers or Rottweilers.”

That legislation, Connecticut House Bill 5361, would prohibit homeowners and rental insurance providers from increasing premium or denying coverage if “certain types of dogs live on the premises,” according to a March 26 article in the Norwich Bulletin entitled, “Insurers, activists class over danger of dog breeds.”

H.B. 5261 sailed through the Connecticut Committee on Insurance and Real Estate on Feb. 17, with 15 members in favor and only 4 opposed. The Committee rejected a proposed requirement for a study of the costs to insurance companies for dog-related claims. The bill is now making its way to the floor of the House.

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In June 2013 the governor of Connecticut signed a bill that “preempts municipalities from regulating dogs on the basis of breed.”

Some activists are questioning whether that prohibition on government regulation of dogs extends to mandating the business decisions of private corporations, especially if it could result in endangering public safety.

CAN “NO BSL” DOG LAW REGULATING GOVERNMENT ACTS BE EXTENDED TO DICTATE PRIVATE BUSINESS PRACTICES?  

Dog trainer Liz Marsden, whose qualifications resulted in her being selected to work with 11 of Michael Vick’s pit bulls after his arrest for dog fighting in 2007, is leading a grassroots campaign against House Bill 5361.

“These are animals that were purposely bred to fight to the death,” she said, referring to pit bulls. “They’re strong, they’re muscular.

“They have the physical traits to get the job done. And the job is to kill,” she told the Norwich Bulletin.

Although she formerly worked with organizations that proclaim pit bulls are just like any other dog, Marsden now calls that position “misguided.”

“I came from this background working with dogs and believing the propaganda that pit bulls were no worse than any dog statistically,” she said. “It just isn’t true.”

The measure is making its way to the House floor after the Committee on Insurance and Real Estate passed it by a vote of 15-4 on Feb. 17. A separate vote requiring a study to examine the costs to insurance companies for dog-related claims failed by a vote of 4-13.

Eric George, president of the Insurance Association of Connecticut, explained that insurers charge higher rates for certain dog breeds because the liability is greater. He warned that, “If such a law were enacted by the Connecticut legislature, it would likely push up all homeowners' premiums to subsidize the few that might own dangerous dogs.”

H.B. 5361 reads, in part: “An insurer cannot set policy rates or minimum premiums or cancel or refuse to renew or issue a homeowners or tenants insurance policy based on a dog's breed unless additional criteria other than breed are also considered.”

The analysis on the Bill (below) notes that the bill does not specify what other criteria may be considered.

The Bill Analysis for HB 5361, reads:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF BREED OF DOG AS AN UNDERWRITING FACTOR FOR HOMEOWNERS AND TENANTS INSURANCE POLICIES.

SUMMARY:

This bill prohibits insurers that write homeowners or tenants insurance, in certain circumstances, from considering an insured's or applicant's dog's breed when (1) setting policy rates or minimum premiums or (2) canceling or refusing to renew or issue a policy. Specifically, under the bill, an insurer cannot consider the breed of dog when the insured or applicant's dog is (1) an active or retired search and rescue dog; (2) a guide dog for assisting a blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person; or (3) being trained to be such a guide dog.

Under the bill, when the insured's or applicant's dog is not a search and rescue or guide dog, an insurer cannot underwrite or rate a homeowners or tenants insurance policy based solely on the dog's breed. An insurer cannot set policy rates or minimum premiums or cancel or refuse to renew or issue a homeowners or tenants insurance policy based on a dog's breed unless additional criteria other than breed are also considered. (The bill does not specify what other criteria may be considered.)

The bill applies to insurers that deliver, renew, amend, or endorse a homeowners or tenants insurance policy in Connecticut on and after October 1, 2015.

Sources: Huffington Post, AVMA.org, Norwich Bulletin, National Canine Research Council 

Photo: Provided, freerepublic.com