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Doggone good news for ‘bad dogs’

By Jay MacDonald ·
Friday, January 7, 2011
Posted: 10 am ET

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.

So I was delighted to receive a press release from The Hartford that announced their new partnership with the American Kennel Club to offer auto insurance and homeowners insurance to AKC dog owners.

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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January 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Does that also mean 'mutts' and all our (guessed) breeds that can now be registered with the new AKC Canine Partners program? If so, then we are all eligible. However, it has never been fair that a small minority of great dogs have been targeted by insurance companies based on breed and not based on temperament of actual actions. I am appalled that this form of discrimination has been allowed to go on for so long.

I am an owner of 3 pit bulls and none of them have ever injured another dog. Two of them have passed their Canine Good Citizen test (the third one was adopted only 3 months ago but will earn his soon enough). My female is also certified with two different therapy groups. So, why not 'target' every dog owner and ask that every dog, irrespective of breed, be required to pass a CGC test. I can guarantee there would be many mixed, and pure bred dogs, not on the targeted list that would fail. Any person who works with canine aggression (I am a professional dog trainer) knows that there are lots of vicious dogs in our society, including labs and goldens that are often treated as if they are not capable of doing harm. A dog not properly socialized or trained will be a liability. All breeds should be treated as individuals, just as we expect all humans to be so treated.

Thankfully, there are some great insurance companies around that do not target specific breeds.

Thanks for the article!

January 07, 2011 at 4:27 pm

Agreed, Erica. To me the policy just screams "no pit bulls!"
It's baffling to me otherwise to limit the pool of insurable dogs to breeds the AKC has highjacked...any mixed breed -- or non-AKC-recognized breed can take and pass the CGC.

At there's a really detailed article "The case against dog breed discrimination by homeowner's insurance" which I found very interesting.

Robyn B
January 07, 2011 at 3:05 pm

One of the most misjudged dogs is not going to be moved to that good dog list, because he has never been recognized by the AKC. The pit bull terrier continues to be maligned in the media, and irrational fear of pit bulls is perpetuated by policies and laws that cast them as "bad dogs." There should be a "Good Citizen" test for dogs of all lineages, not just Kennel Club approved dogs. (Though approving the Staffordshire and Rotties is at least some progress.)

Erica R
January 07, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I think it's terrible that the dog must be AKC registered, meaning the dog must be purebred with papers. There are tens of thousands of wonderful shelter dogs in the world waiting for their forever homes, and they are just as good and well behaved as AKC standard dogs. I refuse to support puppy mills and irresponsible breeders.