The Case Against Dog Breed Discrimination By Homeowners' Insurance Companies
St. John's University School of Law
Connecticut Insurance Law Journal, Vol. 11, No. 1, 2004-5
Many insurance companies refuse to insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dog, claiming that some breeds are inherently more dangerous than others. This practice, known as breed discrimination, is without a basis in science. No study has accurately counted or estimated the number of bites per breed, in part because a national reporting system does not exist for dog bites. People are unable to notice the subtle distinctions between breeds, which calls into question the reports that are made. Mixed breed dogs add further confusion to the problems of identification and collection of dog bite data. Likewise, there is an absence of data on the number of dogs per breed. Without accurate data on the number of bites per breed and the number of dogs per breed, it is scientifically impossible to conclude that one breed is more dangerous than another. Breed discrimination is having a profound effect on American families, who are being forced to choose between home ownership and their pets. Although pets are considered mere property under the law, there is some indication that courts and legislatures have realized what every pet owner already knows: that pets are beloved, four-legged members of many American families. Where, as here, the insurance industry makes underwriting or rate-setting decisions without a rational basis in fact or science, legislatures have the right and the duty to correct the problem. Breed discrimination violates the public interest and is cause for regulation.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 67
Keywords: Dog, breed, discrimination, insurance, homeowner, canine
JEL Classification: G22
Date posted: May 2, 2005