I've been a dog guy all my life. My two Golden Retrievers are a constant source of love and entertainment as they teach me to be a better human. While owning two Air Buds won't prevent me from obtaining homeowners insurance, owning other breeds might.
I don't like it, but I understand it. The tragedies caused by irresponsible dog owners have prompted most underwriters to refuse homeowners insurance coverage to households with a dog whose bloodlines place it on their "bad dog" list. The reason: Dog bites account for one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims, which totaled $387 million in 2008, up nearly 9 percent from 2007.
Sarah Cook, assistant vice president of affinity programs for The Hartford, says the partnership opens a path to homeowners insurance based not solely on the dog's bloodlines, but the responsible behavior of the dog and its owner. The offer includes Rottweilers, Staffordshire terriers and American Staffordshire terriers on The Hartford's own "bad dog" list.
"Those breeds have historically been ineligible for coverage, but now they may be eligible if they meet certain conditions demonstrating obedience and responsible dog ownership," says Cook. "This includes being AKC registered and passing the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. We recognize that as a further illustration of being a responsible dog owner. It's under those conditions that we will now consider those breeds eligible, so we feel really good about that."
Each year, more than 40,000 dogs take the AKC Canine Good Citizen test, a 10-part, noncompetitive evaluation of the dog's obedience and demeanor. The certification also confirms that the dog is under the appropriate care of a veterinarian.
OK, so the above-named "bad dogs" must still be AKC registered for their owners to qualify for homeowners insurance under the program. At least it's a start to finding workable alternatives for the thousands of dog lovers out there faced with the "it's me or the dog" ultimatum by their insurance carrier.
In my view, there are no bad dogs, only irresponsible dog owners. Applause to The Hartford for at least cracking open the door on breed-specific underwriting to let a little air into the room.
What do you think? Should homeowners insurance be denied based on the breed of the family dog?
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