Dog breed discrimination in home insurance

By Stacey Coleman

Imagine being faced with the choice of giving up your home or your beloved pet. It seems unimaginable, but many Americans are faced with this decision every year. The reason is a common problem: the insurance industry uses arbitrary dog ​​breed listings to deny homeowners and renters coverage and to discriminate against individuals.

Racism and classism underlie this discriminatory practice against some pet owners – and it reflects a history of racism in the insurance industry. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is committed to tackling racist and discriminatory underwriting practices, admitting that “racial discrimination has been part of the insurance industry landscape for over 250 years.”

The restrictions on dog breeds in the insurance industry are steeped in discrimination against the people society associates with targeted dogs. In many parts of the country this means low income blacks and browns. Ann Linder, Legislative Policy Fellow in the Animal Law and Policy Program at Harvard Law School, in her report on “The Black Man’s Dog: The Social Context of Breed Specific Legislation,” explained how pit bull dogs came to be. associated with youth gang violence, as well as the hip-hop music scene. The results of a poll in Linder’s report also found that “pit bull” dogs were seen to belong most often to people of color, especially young black males.

If we were to believe what insurance companies tell us, we would think dogs are a threat to everyone, including their own bottom line. In fact, the number of dog bite claims has declined over the past 20 years, despite the increase in the companion dog population over the same period. As the numbers tell us there are more dogs than ever before and people are increasingly responsible, insurance companies continue to defend their exclusion target breed lists to deny dog ​​owners the coverage they need so badly. Yet dog bite benefits only add up to a small fraction of accidental falls and poisonings liability benefits. In addition, according to the NAIC, owners’ insurance losses for property damage accounted for over 98% of losses in 2018, while total liability losses – when dog-related incidents do occur – was less than 2%. % the amount.

Insurance companies claim to have data to support the exclusion of dog owner populations, but will not disclose the data, algorithms or even the resources used to justify its discrimination. Since our organization conducts and publishes research on dog bites (and dog bite hysteria), we would be well aware if there was any data supporting the targeting of dog owners based on dog etiquette. their pet’s breed. Such data does not exist. In fact, if all of the literature were to be considered by insurance actuaries, they would learn that attempting to identify dangerous dogs and reckless owners based on their appearance or where they live is a good idea. failed public policy that looks like a red line.

In a recent Nevada legislative session, a bill was passed by both houses to prevent insurers from excluding dog owners without proof of an increased risk of loss. The Association of Property and Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) submitted a letter of objection full of unsubstantiated allegations from a tabloid website. The incorrect information in the opposition letter was initially assumed to be true by lawmakers. But that was not correct and the APCIA, a so-called leader in the insurance business representing major insurance providers, didn’t even bother to check the facts.

Insurance fights fiercely against government regulation, but until the industry is prepared to effectively self-regulate an act as simple as verifying a source’s facts, insurance consumers need protection. . In her testimony to Congress, Sonja Larkin-Thorne, a retired consumer advocate and insurance executive, expressed concern about the insurance industry’s use of unregulated algorithms for big data collection without transparency on how this information is used, without disclosure of supply and without palliative to avoid unintentional bias and discrimination.

If you have been denied rental accommodation or home insurance because of your dog, please notify your Insurance Commissioner by visiting dogpeopleandhousinginsurance.org to share your story. The NAIC is committed to protecting insurance consumers from discriminatory practices.

Stacey Coleman is the Executive Director of Animal Farm Foundation (AFF), a nonprofit that brings dogs and people together to end discrimination. She wrote this for InsideSources.


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