While impassioned dog advocates will often say things like “punish the deed, not the breed” and certain breeds are not inherently dangerous, that isn’t enough to sway Farmers Insurance, who has discontinued coverage for dogs it deems too high a risk.
While existing policies will not be canceled, new policies will not be written for pit bull terriers, rottweilers and wolf breeds. Once existing policies lapse, homeowners will not receive liability coverage for dog bite claims if they decide to renew their policies with the insurer.
According to Erin Freeman, Farmers’ chief communications officer, since mid-January the company has been requiring its customers to sign an exclusion waiver of liability coverage for dog bites.
“These breeds accounted for 25 percent of dog bite claims,” Freeman said in a statement. “In addition, these breeds cause more harm when they attack than any other breed.”
“They are condemning these breeds indiscriminately without giving the homeowners a chance to prove their dogs are not vicious,” says Candy Clemente, dog trainer for the Animal Planet show Pit Boss.
While there is merit in resentment from owners of these dog breeds, this sort of risk analysis is nothing new in the insurance industry. While the result is usually not non-coverage, insurance companies vary their rates based on many behavior-based factors related to policyholders, including their occupation and where they live.
The dog bite statistics don’t help.
A five-year review from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia published in 2009 found that over 50 percent of dog attacks on children were from pit bulls, nearly nine percent from rottweilers and six percent from pit bull/rottweiler mixes — a total of about 66 percent of all dog attacks.
A 2011 Annals of Surgery study said “attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs… Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the U.S. mortality rates related to dog bites.”