Now in New York, insurers can’t refuse you for what type of dog you own


ALBANY – A new state law bans insurance companies from offering insurance to homeowners because of dog breeds, a move praised by pet owners who say some dogs are wrongly maligned as inherently violent.

“It’s not fair to animals and not fair to homeowners who want to give their pets a loving home,” said Libby Post, executive director of the NYS Animal Protection Federation.

It is long overdue for animal shelters and animal rights activists to lift restrictions on breeds that have long been maligned.

“Eliminating this arbitrary and discriminatory disability for thousands of responsible dog owners in New York is just the thing,” said Bill Ketzer, ASPCA: Eastern Division’s senior director of state law, in a statement.

The previously banned canines include pit bulls, a breed known to be aggressive. An entire industry has sprung up in the past few decades promoting the stereotype of the breed, critics say, including products like muscle building and the dog’s image in pop culture, as well as oversized media coverage of attacks.

Proponents, however, claim that the breed was adopted by irresponsible owners, many of whom view them as a threatening status symbol rather than a beloved pet.

“There’s no evidence that any breed of animal is inherently more violent,” said Ashley Jeffrey Bouck, CEO of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society. “It really is the biggest myth that you can control their behavior.”

And those misjudgments have resulted in insurance carriers having the right in the past to refuse to issue home insurance to pit bull owners and other breeds, including the German Shepherd or Doberman, until Governor Kathy Hochul signed law last October that allowed the practice forbids.

It was also legal to increase home insurance premiums based on breed of dog.

Before Hochul signed the broader animal welfare package, insurance companies had a list of breeds on a warning list, said Don Ferlazzo, owner of the Ferlazzo Agency in Clifton Park, who called the practice “discriminatory”.

Other races were banned completely.

“It prevented someone from saving an animal that complied with such guidelines,” said Ferlazzo.

Pit bulls were bred to be fighters in the past, he said, hence the stereotype. And since the dogs are trained to be protective, they are found to be harder to control.

Proponents, however, claim that their predisposition is a matter of “nature versus upbringing” and that behavior is not inherited but learned, and that the breed is loving and wonderful with children (the dog in “The Little Rascals” is actually a pit bull, stressed Post).

Pit bull mixes tend to dominate the dogs that are offered for adoption at local animal shelters.

However, Bouck said it was impossible to determine the specific breed without DNA testing or documentation to prove its purebred status.

Joseph Lisella, executive director of the Animal Protective Foundation in Glenville, estimated that more than half of the dogs that come to the shelter could be categorized as pit bull mixed breeds.

Usually they are in the shelter a little longer than other breeds, depending on the customer’s wishes.

“Pit bulls have just become an important part of animal shelters across the country,” said Lisella. “They are bigger, strong dogs, and owners need to be trained to ensure that each and every dog ​​is an important member of the household.”

There are several reasons why so many pit bulls end up in animal shelters.

Post said the canines are more common in more populated areas, including New York City and Long Island. Many are picked up by animal welfare officials because they do not have a license or are not microchipped. Then they are transported to the hinterland for adoption.

“It depends on economic access,” said Bouck. “When people have no resources, [the dogs] are not socialized and more prone to attack. “

Mia Johnson, co-founder of National Pit Bull Victim Awareness, pointed to a long list of fatal racial mutilations as evidence of their inherent threat.

Fifty people in the U.S. were killed by dogs last year, she said, and 36 of the 50 fatalities were caused by pit bulls and pit bull mixed breeds. Thousands more were injured, many seriously, she said.

“The cost of the system is unspeakable,” Johnson said in an email. “Pit bull attack victims spend millions of dollars on emergency and recovery operations, often over many years.”

Pit bull attacks are also disproportionate in number and severity, she said: Ninety percent of injuries involve the head and neck region and nearly three quarters of attacks are of greater severity.

In addition, the attacks come at substantial prices, she said.

The total cost of dog bite and related damage claims paid by insurers exceeds $ 850 million a year – excluding pit bull bites, according to Johnson.

“Liability limited to a maximum of $ 100,000 to $ 300,000 is rarely enough to cover the actual and long-term medical costs of a pit bull attack,” said Johnson., a public education website about dangerous dog breeds, said insurance companies are for-profit companies and asked why they should be required to pay for dog bite injuries if they can’t restrict certain breeds that have repeatedly appeared in medical studies for “more serious injuries.” than inflicting other races ”.

“Why pay for dog bite wounds when you can’t limit a dog of a breed that has had multiple bites in the past but was not classified as a dangerous dog, which can involve a lengthy decision-making process?” said Colleen Lynn, president and founder of the site. “It is unknown what the results will be five years after the bill is signed.”

The NYS Animal Protection Federation pushed back, saying that part of the stigma of the breed can be attributed to oversized media coverage of dog bites.

“People are bitten by dogs every day,” says a white paper written by the organization, “but there are more reports about certain breeds than others.”

From the 1980s onwards, heavily publicized pit bull attacks were used to create a negative mood towards the breed.

“A Chihuahua bite is unlikely to make headlines, but a Rottweiler or pit bite is sure to be covered,” the newspaper said. “This is only to increase the bias of the general public against certain races that are labeled as aggressive, and this can serve as a basis for insurance discrimination.”

Proponents also say that many people lack the resources to spay or neuter pit bull puppies, hence their rapid spread – and their willingness to attack.

“Dogs that haven’t been repaired are nearly three times as likely to attack as those that have, and account for 95 percent of all fatal abuse,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk told the Times Union. “Legislators can protect their voters – and animals – by supporting laws that mandate that dogs and cats be neutered or neutered to reduce the number of attacks.”

Legislation banning racial discrimination was endorsed by Senator Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, and State Assembly MP Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat.

While one major hurdle has been cleared, proponents now want to extend the ban to tenant insurance, a wish-list for this year’s legislature. A bill already has co-sponsorship.

Bouck, CEO of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, said the topic is more topical than ever as the state’s first eviction moratorium, first enacted in 2020, expires on Jan. 15. 14,000 people are at risk of losing their homes in Albany and Rensselaer Counties alone, she said.

“When people move from their current homes, we don’t want the breed to be the reason not to bring their pets,” said Bouck.

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