Pet Peeve: Insurance Industry Should Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Worry About Cat Losses

By Raleigh Doodle | April 18, 2005

  • April 18, 2005 at 2:05 am
    Big Dog says:
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    The numbers don’t lie, I know a company I use to work for averaged a new dog bite claim every other day. Any company that does not care about insuring a pit bull is nuts.

  • April 18, 2005 at 2:33 am
    Muddypawz says:
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    A Pit Bull is no more dangerous than a Golden Retriever. Insurance companies (yes I work for one) need to do better research and quit “labeling” everything based on meritless information. It’s just another excuse to pocket more money and screw the average person. Perhaps if more insurance companies skipped the million dollar year end bonuses to their executives, there would be more money for their policyholders or research.

  • April 18, 2005 at 3:05 am
    Beth says:
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    Pit Bulls, Rottweillers and other fighting dogs are more dangerous than other breeds regardless of their training or ownership. Pit Bulls etc. have had the “off switch” bred out of them – most dogs will stop fighting when the victim submitts (in dogs this means rolling on to their backs and going limp – hense the “top dog” concept) this reaction has been bred out of these breeds and they have no “off switch” – they have to be peeled off the children they’ve attacked. There is no use for these dogs except by criminal elements and they should be outlawed.

  • April 18, 2005 at 3:05 am
    Ruth Nichols says:
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    There are many things that insurance carriers can do besides panicking at anything big and furry. The American Kennel Club has a Canine Good Citizen award program that is available to all dog owners. Rather than jump on the Breed Specific bandwagon, perhaps underwriters would be wiser to ask for this certificate. Heck, they want report cards on kids; why not a temperament evaluation on pets.
    Look closely at the statistics: cocker spaniels are responsible for more bites than almost every other breed; as are mixed breed dogs of dubious background. How many insurers refuse to cover these dogs?
    Yes I am aware that there is a severity issue with bites from larger dogs, but the temperament of a dog has less to do with its breeding and more to do with the level of commitment its owner has in making it a valued and safe member of society.
    I have seen people receive cancellation notices because the dogs in the yard barked at the insurance inspector. Imagine that; a dog barking through a secure fence at a total stranger walking around the property. Barking does not equate to biting, but it sure does scare the burglars away.
    If the carriers would put things in perspective and use tools already readily available, they could safely and predictably underwite dog exposures.
    Let’s face it, dogs are a part of the American lifestyle and are not going anywhere. More homes have dogs than not. Companies cannot logically stick their heads in the sand and hope the dog issue goes away. But, they can try to minimize their exposures using a more logical approach than breed specific exclusions.

  • April 18, 2005 at 3:07 am
    CatLover says:
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    I have never heard of toy poodles or tabby cats or pomeranians savagely attacking children. I have heard of Chows, Pit Bulls, and other dogs that are popularily labeled “attack prone” breeds seriuosly injuring and even killing people. Like it or not insurance companies (Yes, I do represent one)spend great deals of time and resources to calculate risks. I do not forsee my “fluffy” the cat mauling and killing the neighbor kid next door, I can see the neighbor’s Pit Bull as a likely candidate for such incidents.

  • April 18, 2005 at 3:08 am
    bob says:
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    I agree. Dogs are a combination of their environment and training. Pit Bulls Dobermans and the like have gotten a bad rap from the movies. A well trained and well raised dog of any breed or size will be an excellent pet and pose next to no danger of a biting incident. Most bites come from small dogs (poodles and cockers)because people aren’t cautious around them or give them the same respect they would a larger dog. Howver they are still all capable of biting given reason. So prosecute the abusive owners and consider the responsibility of the owner not the breed of dog when uderwriting.

  • April 18, 2005 at 3:53 am
    Bob 2 says:
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    I have been in the insurance business long enough to know one thing…if there is a profitable buck to be made, most companies will do whatever it takes to attract that type of business. (Does the term “soft market” ring a bell?) The trouble with dogs (especially the “undesirable” breeds) is that no one has figured out how to make money insuring them. Some companies have tried, but eventually have to back away because of losses. So…to all those out there that feel that the insurance industry is ripping them off, why not band together, invest in forming an insurance company and write all the dogs you like? It will be your chance to make a fortune and prove the rest of us wrong. Go for it.

  • April 18, 2005 at 4:42 am
    MM says:
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    Dog owners–why don’t you just do what people with children do on the automobile side–Don’t tell the company you have them. When there is a claim, they will find out soon enough.

    ps Don’t blame insurance companies. By the breeding nature, we are reactive. It is the trial lawyers that are bred to be agressive.

  • April 18, 2005 at 5:15 am
    Doggie Mom says:
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    I have said it before and I will say it again. Those of us who loves dogs would pay extra to be able to insure whatever breed we have with companies who just don’t get it! Fight the deed not the breed had been my mantra for years but the people who need to listen won’t and the people who do listen have not been able or willing to get anything done with the companies.

  • April 18, 2005 at 5:30 am
    observer says:
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    Well it is clear to me that this is a heated topic that is NOT going away and probably will not be changed either. Lets first start out with the original article comments about all the good that dogs do. It is true that dogs do plenty of good, those that are trained in a specific task or job, usually perform well in that duty as long as they are contiunally trained and used in that capacity. Seeing eye dogs are obviously the most useful dogs I think there is, I have never seen a dog that will dial 911, but I never thought Clinton would get elected a second time either. All the dogs mentioned are highly trained in a specific job, average pets are not truly trained by their owners, other than bark when you have to go out and bark alot when people come into the yard. I do have first hand knowledge of a well decorated police dog that had performed his duties very well, had numerous service medals and was his partners best friend, that dog also viciously malled and killed his owners 8 week old child while it was sleeping in the crib. The point to be made is that even well trained GOOD dogs do horrible things and NO ONE can explain why, and I don’t buy into pet psychology crap either. Insurance companies will insure anything if they can make a buck doing it, lawyers have made it difficult to make money at anything these days. Until people take responsibility for their animals and realize they can injure and kill (even small dogs)they must be trained, and 98% of all people WILL NOT take the time to train their dogs. I dont care how compassionate people are about certain breeds, Pit bulls are viscious when they bite, they do not just nip and run away like a chihuahua or poodle. I did not say all pits are viscious, but when they bite it is viscious. This is true of several other breeds. Dalmations were the number one dog bite claim for Allstate in 1997. they were not viscious, but they do not react well around kids, and after Disneys release of the movie alot of families bought dalmations. They are no longer a popular breed and not prohibited by most companies, but the company history is very clear on some breeds, if the owner does not take the time to train the dog to obey, it could and probably will bite as it gets older. Another post indicated that most homes have dogs, where is that evidence because I dont think so. Homeowners insurance does not and will not cover everything that people want it to, risk and claim probability is factored into everything a company does, you can calculate probability of certain claims such as fire, flood and wind (except in Florida) but it is difficult to be able to figure out how many dogs are going to bite someone in a year, the numbers are rising and it does not look good, so who has any ideas on how to make dogs bite less? and how we can make people use those techniques to prevent bites, Figure that out and then we can talk about insuring animal liability.

  • April 18, 2005 at 5:43 am
    Think again says:
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    It sounds like Doggie mom holds insurance companies at fault because her fellow dog owners are not responsible people. Dont expect insurance companies to make people be good dog owners, that is not the responsibility of insurance companies, that IS the responsibility of ALL pet owners, and yes you should pay more for insurance if the risk is higher, but if the risk is not profitable you can’t afford to buy the coverage and the company cant afford to sell it. It cost more for young drivers on an auto insurance policy,why? because the risk is higher and inexperienced drivers are going to do dumb things and get into accidents, they should pay more. If they continue to have bad habits the cost will be so high that they can not afford to buy insurance, and should not be on the roads because they are a danger to others, just like certain viscious breeds of dogs, DANGEROUS. I am not aware of ANY insurance company that charges more for any particular breed of dog, you either have coverage or you don’t. Some will allow you to buy back animal liability coverage as long as you do not have any of the “BAD” breeds, but the price is not breed specific. and it continues…

  • April 19, 2005 at 7:14 am
    Dog-loving underwriter says:
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    Well, I guess I just have to weigh in here. I am a dog-lover and also spent 10 years as an underwriter. The main problem we have in insurance is irresponsible dog owners, who don’t train their dogs, or worse yet, train them to be aggressive.

    Let’s be honest, most companies are losing money writing your homeowner’s policy already. It’s a line that hasn’t been profitable in a long time. And, you only have to see the photos from one claim where a child was bitten in the face (yes, $75,000 in plastic surgery) before it makes you skittish.

    As a field farm underwriter, I met literally hundreds of dogs, most of which were great working animals or sweet family pets. But, I was also the only one in my department who hadn’t been bitten on the job.

    Bottom line is that most responsible people don’t own animals like pit bulls or rottweilers because they know they are dangerous. If they do, they are going to have problems finding insurance. But, there are still companies willing to write this, so you need to get shopping and yes, you might pay more. It’s a free country so you still get to have the dog but nothing says we have to insure it for free.

  • April 19, 2005 at 8:26 am
    POPULATION says:
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    Ruth, if there is 65 million dogs in 45 million households, this indicates that alot of people have more than 1 dog. the problem is that the us census reported 281,421,906 people in the US in 2000. There is a vast majority of people that DO NOT HAVE DOGS.

  • April 19, 2005 at 2:55 am
    Ruth Nichols says:
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    I think you were referring to my post where I stated that most homes have dogs and you are right. I mis-stated. It seems that there are only 65 million dogs in the United States in 40 million households. This information is from the HSUS 2004 pet census. Okay, so not most, but 40 million is a helluva lot of market share.

    Speaking of sharing, I wholeheartedly agree that there should be no free ride for dog owners; even the ones that train. I think the American love affair with the dog will continue and I also believe most of us would gladly pay an additional premium for the privilege of having our homeowners coverage extend to dog liability. I also believe that dog owners who attain AKC or UKC obedience titles or attain the AKC Canine Good Citizenship on their dogs should receive some discount off of the “dog” surcharge, just a good students earn discounts off of their surcharged “young driver” rates.

    I have no problem with “one bite and you’re out”. Yes, I am a dog lover, but I am not an idiot. I would not expect an insurance company to continue to extend liability to a dog that has already bitten. BUT, let’s make sure the dog actually bit. Many of the dog bite claims I have seen were actually scratches from nails done in play or knocking over the neighbor with an exhuberant welcome. Give that type of dog’s owner the chance to earn an obedience certificate before making them into a pariah.

    It is and always has been the dog owners’ who should be held accountable. If someone is not willing to fence their yard as they are required to do if they own a pool or a trampoline, then they don’t deserve preferred market coverage. If someone has a dubious claim brought against them for their dog’s actions, unless it is a serious, no mistake, honest to God bite; then require them to present evidence of an obedience class graduation; or the AKC Good Citizenship award or a certified animal behaviorist evaluation.

    There are sensible ways to do this; we just have to get there.

  • April 21, 2005 at 3:07 am
    yawn says:
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    The bottom line is that anyone that owns a dog has an obligation to be in control of that animal at all times. Period! I’ve handled too many dog bite claims in my career where the guilty owner showed more concern for their dog than the person who was bit. One look at an infant whose lip was bit off by an out of control dog and you understand why insurance companies are leery of insuring owners of dogs, especially those breeds that have unpredictable demeanors.

  • April 21, 2005 at 3:38 am
    Bob 2 says:
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    A true story:
    As a young underwriter, I cancelled a policy when I learned, through an inspection, that the insured had a pit bull. The insured was so upset that he contacted the local television station. My company made the evening news as the heartless insurance company that didn’t understand that this was a well trained, pure bred dog with an outstanding pedigree. We took the heat, but didn’t back down. One year later, our ex-insured’s five year old grandaughter was visiting when, for “no apparent reason”, the dog attacked. She was badly mauled, but lived. No TV cameras came this time. Only a small article in the local paper. Some other insurance company bought that loss. I wonder if that underwriter is still insuring pit bulls.

  • April 25, 2005 at 1:20 am
    U/W fan says:
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    Glad to hear from you guys; you only need to see one bad bite claim or fatality (it happens too) to understand that parents/owners don’t watch kids/dogs the way they should, and whether or not the dog’s got a degree or not, if the 5 year old is alone with Rottweiler and tries to pull his tail, what’s going to happen? I’m not willing to underwrite that dog, because I can’t be guaranteed that the kid will be kept under control. And when the bite happens, and it will, it’ll be the homeowners policy that pays the plastic surgeon.

  • April 25, 2005 at 2:08 am
    Turquoise gecko says:
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    If nothing else, Doodle ignited a maelstrom of passion about people and their dogs. A closer look at his examples tells you that 5 of the 6 involve specialized training that 99.5% of all other dogs never get.
    I see this issue as a battle ground for adverse selection. People who properly train their dogs should have little exposure to the peril and therefore less concern when insurance companies do not want to cover dogs.
    The vast majority of dog owners who do little or nothing to train their dogs are the ones who need to be sweating the lack of coverage. Their overwhelming desire to own a dog, regardless of the availability of insurance, is still not enough to get them to properly train their dog, thus leaving them in good position to lose all their hard earned assets after a serious bite.
    Once again, the failure of some to be responsible, reasonable, and prudent ruins it for those who are.

  • April 25, 2005 at 2:10 am
    BowWow says:
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    Lets face it – an animal is an animal regardless of the breed, how well it was trained, how carefully handled, or how many certificates it has received, or how publicly decorated… There is no one on this earth that can guarantee than an animals instinct, for domination, preservation, or protection isn’t going to take over at any given moment. I AM a responsible pet owner – my dogs have been trained from the beginning not to bark excessively…someone in the yard next door? Yes, they are alert, but they also know that they are not to bark – and if they do, and I am home, they are called on it. Okay they can sit, stay, heal and roll over too… Can I train them not to bite? I can try…but I am not going to say that they will never bite. Even I ask an owner before I pet an animal, my son was also raised to ask and does so even after 15 years. That’s all well and good – but when the animal is running loose, no one is going to stop what comes natural.

    The reality of it is… any dog can be vicious – yes… even a Pomeranian that was mentioned in another post… However certain breeds are more likely to bite – Lets talk about education – – – Go do a search on DOG BITES and take a walk on the wild side.

    http://www.dogbitelaw.com/PAGES/statistics.html – Top

    How about the reality of the extent of injuries that can occur? Check out the graphic photos of children mauled by animals

    http://www.plasticsurgery4u.com/procedure_folder/dog_bite.html

    Every pet-owner is responsible for their pet’s actions – it’s a little thing called personal responsibility that seems to be lacking in a lot of households. If you choose to own an animal – then you should personally accept the responsibility. Of course, there is the criminal element that we all pay for regardless of how we feel.

    Carriers have the right to exclude animals from their policies, just like every one of us has the right to decide if we own a pet, and the ultimate responsibility that comes with it.

    I’ve been an underwriter for 29 years – and I will never stop doing my job, nor do I expect the company that I work for, or any others from doing theirs.

  • April 25, 2005 at 2:35 am
    Big Dog says:
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    A dog bite from your non-aggressive type dog will cost you $10-15K in litigation. A bite from an agressive dog like a pit bull will cost policy limits. Why would anyone ever write a home for an insured who has one of those agressive breeds. The homeowner rate is the best deal going. And I can’t imagine rating structures were developed with pit bulls in mind.
    With all the “cat’s” out there, we shouldn’t be forced to worry about the dogs

  • April 26, 2005 at 7:51 am
    Animal Trainer says:
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    Are you all really this stupid ? EDUCATE YOURSELF and quit using senseless stereotypes. NO breed is more prone to anything. The bottom line is, insurance companies are out to make money and screw the public. They will find any little loophole to not pay a claim or find a reason to deny coverage to a reasonable and prudent person.

  • April 26, 2005 at 7:57 am
    muddypawz says:
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    Wal-Mart ? The cereal box ? Please do tell me where you learned about the “off switch.” I assume you are a professional animal trainer or behaviorist ?

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