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2022 NY Law Says Insurance Companies Cannot Deny Coverage for Owners of Pit Bulls and Other Dangerous Dog Breeds

ANIMAL WATCH - On January 30, 2022, an AKC-backed law to prevent insurance companies from denying or increasing premiums on homeowners or renters who own Pit Bulls or other dangerous dog breeds, will go into effect in New York state.

The Bill (S.4254) is a revision of a proposal first introduced in 2009, but rejected and reintroduced until it finally passed this year and was signed into law by recently appointed Governor Holchin, who is completing the term after resignation of former-Governor Mario Cuomo. (Holchin has announced her campaign for the job after completion of the current term.)

 

The photo announcing passage of the law ironically shows Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris with a senior Golden Retriever, as he postulates about creating more homes for Pit Bulls and other dangerous-breed dogs. “People should never be forced to choose between an affordable place to live and the pets who are members of their families. This proposal would make it easier for New Yorkers to give good homes to even more animals in need,” he states. 

There isn’t really much risk in insuring a Golden Retriever. To authenticate his point of equality for all breeds, Gianans should be holding the type of dog he is talking about placing next door to families with children in rentals—a shelter pit bull with an unknown history, or a stray or relinquished Dogo Argentino—the large muscular breed originally developed “primarily for the purpose of big game hunting including wild boars,” and which is one of last year’s newly recognized breeds by the AKC.

 DOGO ARGENTINO

Assembly Member Deborah J. Glick, sponsored the Bill, stating, “By preventing insurers from relying on incorrect breed-specific generalizations, this legislation will make homeowners insurance rates more fair, and will make it easier for more dogs to find a loving home.” 

If “fair” means insurance companies will now be charging every dog owner more (regardless of breed), she is right. This will definitely give insurance companies the opportunity to increase all rates equally—and they will do so to cover the increased costs of insuring dogs that already have a history of causing injury or are a breed that is genetically likely to do so. 

Equality may also cause more landlords to require that renters with dogs obtain their own insurance to cover the actions of their pets—which is also “fair.” 

It is mind-boggling that the following justification is contained in the motion for the bill by Gianaris: 

For years, insurance companies that offer homeowners insurance have avoided loss because of the burglary prevention provided by homeowners' dogs. It is unacceptable that now insurance companies would want the ability to deny coverage based on the exact same breed of dog that may have protected the homeowners and the insurance company from loss. 

In other words, the goal of this law is not “fairness” because it will equally penalize the owners of good dogs by raising all dog owners’ (and landlords’) insurance rates. In reality the New York legislature is acting as a dangerous dog-rescue organization, with the purpose of emptying animal shelters filled with Pit Bulls and other aggressive dogs that have been relinquished by owners or returned to the shelters by fosters/adopters who bought/adopted them as guard dogs and then were surprised to discover they were not also the touted family-friendly Nanny Dogs. 

There are absolutely NO studies or statistics offered to support any of the assumptions, declarations or promises of this bill and all the arguments are equally unrealistic.  

Their “justification” clearly acknowledges the propensity for the dogs to cause harm in calling them deterrents to burglary, yet ignores the varying levels of danger posed by different types of dogs.   

L.A. DOGIBITE LAWYER WEIGHS IN 

Los Angeles dog-bite law attorney, Kenneth M. Phillips, opined, "The new law is a modified version of the one that was proposed over 12 years ago. (Read it here.) Lawmakers took out the part that said an insurer could charge a higher insurance premium for dogs that had a history of biting people and causing financial losses. Even after taking it out, there weren't enough votes to pass it until recently." 

"This new law is entirely unfair to homeowners who don't have dogs, and dog owners with friendly dogs, because they all will end up paying for the harm caused by bad dogs. It isn't right and it makes no sense."  

MIXING ANIMALS AND POLITICS 

Can New York lawmakers really be so naïve or illogical that they don’t understand what will happen? Or, could future election goals be clouding their judgment? 

Remember, Governor Houchlin, for instance, is serving the remaining term of former-Governor Cuomo’s term and has announced her intent to seek the office in the next election. Non-profit animal organizations (501C3) cannot overtly endorse politicians’ campaigns, but the photo-ops and media attention supporting an animal cause backed by organizations that receive multi-millions of dollars annually in donations certainly doesn’t hurt her. 

Animal issues have become big business and can have significant political influence, but the insurance companies provide a mandatory service and understand risk. They also establish rates. They tend to reward those who take responsible actions—especially in selecting a family dog. 

The burden for insuring the proliferation of Pit Bulls and related breed-types will be on the dog owners and landlords in NY now; but it undoubtedly is intended to spread across the U.S. 

 

Here are some published comments by major animal groups: 

Brian Shapiro, New York State Director for the Humane Society of the United States said, “For years, responsible dog owners have been unfairly denied homeowners insurance because of their dog’s breed. With this legislation, insurance companies will base policies on actual risk, rather than outdated breed stereotypes.” 

The ASPCA, which supported the bill stated on November 4, 2021, that, if signed into law by the Governor, “This legislation removes housing barriers for New York dog owners, and if signed into law, New York would join Nevada as the only two states that have enacted laws to prohibit this discriminatory practice.” 

Libby Post, Executive Director of the NYS Animal Protection Federation (NYSAPF), is  a prominent activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, who heads  a company called “Communication Services,” brandishing the motto, “Communication Services can get any campaign to yes.“  

She spoke as the professional advocate for the state’s animal shelters contending, “Insurance companies routinely stand in the way by denying homeowners insurance or charging exorbitant premiums if you own a breed that the insurers consider aggressive—like Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, Rottweilers or Great Danes. This bill has been one of the Federation’s top priorities because this discrimination is unfounded and based on sensationalized media coverage of dog bites.” 

She reportedly lobbied successfully to get $5 million in the state budget to help animal groups with capital campaigns. 

A 2018 Times Union interview states that, “Post and Dunning-Vaughn have three pets; a golden retriever puppy named Shayna and cats Ira and Smudge.  (Wonder why she doesn’t have a Pit Bull?) 

The AKC issued this statement: 

“The American Kennel Club (AKC®), the world’s largest purebred dog registry and advocate for all dogs, is pleased to express strong support and appreciation for the passage of the New York State Law, going into effect in January 2022, which will ban homeowners insurance breed discrimination.” (However, the AKC does not recognize Pit Bulls as a breed.) 

“Insurance companies may cancel, increase rates, or refuse to issue policies if a dog is declared dangerous as defined in New York State Law, so long as the action is based on “sound underwriting and actuarial principles” and the action is reasonably related to actual or anticipated loss. However, the action cannot be based on the dog’s breed.” the AKC explains. 

STATISTICS DISAGREE 

There are some obvioius problems with these statements. Few dogs that cause harm are actually declared “dangerous,” and, if so, it is after a lengthy legal process.  And, (in many states) they are then often just moved to another animal control jurisdiction or given to a rescue for “rehabilitation” and/or a “second-chance” adoption, so the “dangerous” label will not transfer over to the new, unsuspecting, community leaving the insurance company foot the bill again and again—and pass those costs onto all of us. (Many of these are the dogs in shelters which this bill seeks to “save.”)  

Plus, this means that an incident has already occurred where the dog has inflicted serious injury. 

SPOTLIGHT ON DOG LIABILITY IN 2020 (Insurance Information Institute) 

Liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost homeowners insurers $854 million in in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) and State Farm®. 

The average cost per claim increased by 12.3 percent in 2020 to $50,425 from $44,760 in 2019. The average cost per claim nationally has risen 162 percent from 2003 to 2020, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are trending upwards. 

By state, California continues to have the largest number of claims in the United States, at 2,103 in 2020, down from 2,396 in 2019. The state with the second highest number of claims was Florida at 1,235. Nebraska had the highest average cost per claim at $71,243, followed by New York with an average cost of $66,817. 

ARE CLAIMS OF BREED DISCRIMINATION VALID? 

FIREWALL TIMES - Dog Bite Statistics  (June 21, 2021 by Catherine Reed, writer and researcher) 

Dog bites involving children that required an emergency room visit increased by 300% during COVID-19, when restrictions meant more time spent with or near the family dog. (Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information) 

77% of dog bite injuries to children under 10 involve the face (Source: Fatherly) 

Annually, over 28,000 reconstructive plastic surgery procedures are for repairing a dog bite injury. (American Society of Plastic Surgeons.) 

In 2020, there were 46 dog bite-related fatalities, 72% of which involved Pit Bulls. Pit bulls were a factor in 33 (72%). 

68% of fatal dog attacks involve only one dog (The remaining 32% of fatal attacks involved two or more dogs.) (Fatal Dog Attacks.)  

19% of all dog fatalities involve infants. (19% of dog bite fatalities involved children under one year in age, in 95% when the dog was left unsupervised in the area of the child.) (Fatal Dog Attacks.)  

The odds of a fatal dog attack involving a human attacker or burglar are just 1 in 177.  (7 out of 10 chance it will involve a child.) (Katz on Dogs: A Commonsense Guide to Training and Living with Dogs.) 

Dog bite and other dog-related injury liability claims cost $854 Million in 2020.

(Most liability claims filed against the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy.) In 2020, insurers spent $854 million on dog bite and dog-related injury claims. (Insurance Information Institute.) 

DANGEROUS DOG ATTACKS IN NY AREA 

3-Year-Old Was Playing in Yard for 1st Time With Family

Mar 18, 2021—A private funeral was held Thursday for a three year old boy killed by two pit bulls who made their way into his backyard Tuesday afternoon. 

Toddler falls from window of home, mauled to death by ...

Jun 12, 2021 — A 3-year-old boy fell out of a window at his family home in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was then mauled to death by the family's two pit bulls. 

Mom has arms ripped, dies stopping pit bull from attacking son

Dec 20, 2021 — A Wisconsin mother had her arms ripped apart by a pit bull while saving her 4-year-old son from the dog and later died, kin say. 

Dogs kill 3-year-old boy, severely injures Mom in New Jersey  (03/17/21)

Mar 17, 2021 — The child was playing in the yard of his home on East Laurel St. in Carteret at about 4:30 Tuesday when the dogs attacked him and his mother,.... 

Father charged in fatal dog mauling of NYC toddler

 Aug 11, 2021 — A 19-month-old boy in Brooklyn died after he was attacked by a family Rottweiler while he was under the care of older children, a "horrific" incident.... 

Family dog kills baby boy left at NYC home with young brothers

Aug 11, 2021 — No child should have been left alone with a “vicious” Rottweiler that fatally mauled a little boy left unsupervised in a Brooklyn apartment,,... 

Father of baby fatally mauled by pit bull was enraged before ...

Nov 18, 2021 — Some seven hours after the family pit bull killed his newborn, an enraged Timothy Settles set fire to a New London house where he had argued.... 

Pit bull attack database (National Pit Bull Victim Awareness)

12/07/2021, 14-year-old girl airlifted after being attacked by a pit bull that also attacked its owner, Fishkill, New York, United States, Fishkill, New.... 

2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull-Mix Kills Child in ...

https://blog.dogsbite.org › Nov 18, 2015 — Oneida County, NY - A family pit bull attacked and killed an 11-month old boy in the town of Marshall last night, according to the Oneida.…

 

REMEMBERING DIANE WHIPPLE 

January commemorates the brutal mauling of Diane Whipple, lacrosse athlete and college coach, who was savagely killed in the hallway of her Pacific Heights apartment in San Francisco by a Presa Canario—a massive Pit-Bull-type dog—one of two owned by an imprisoned member of the Arayan Brotherhood, who was organizing a dog-fighting operation. 

The Presa Canarios were being “fostered” in the rental unit adjacent to the apartment Diane Whipple shared with her partner, Sharon Smart. 

On January 26, 2001, Diane was returning home with bags of groceries when she was attacked by the two dogs in the hallway. The “caretaker,” an attorney, was taking the dogs out of their apartment at the same time Whipple returned. The dogs escaped her control and at least one, Bane, attacked Whipple with the intent to kill and she had nowhere to escape the massive canine. 

Diane Whipple suffered a total of 77 wounds to every part of her body except her scalp and bottoms of her feet and diedhours later at San Francisco General Hospital from "loss of blood from multiple traumatic injuries (dog bite wounds)." 

January was also the month of the trial in 2006, where Diane’s domestic partner, Sharon Smith testified that Whipple told her about being bitten by the dogs six weeks earlier and that she had warned the couple they needed to control them. 

HOW MANY DEATHS ARE ENOUGH? 

How many deaths are needed before the “humane” groups, animal shelters and  politicians that ignore these statistics admit there is a problem with Pit Bulls and other dangerous dog breeds all over the USA—and that they (the experts) are increasingly a part of that problem?

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former Los Angeles City employee.)