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December 2007 Barker


Please be sure to attend the Christmas Party at the Crab Cracker. We will be voting on new officers for 2008. If any of the Show Committee Chairs for our January 2008 show have any problems that they need assistance with and have not told Jan yet, this would be the time to do it!

I am a member of a task force that is trying to get a bill introduce to the state legislature in January 2008. This bill is designed to prohibit insurance companies from denying home owners coverage to any one that owns certain breeds of dogs on a list maintained by the insurance companies. The bill will allow the insurance companies to deny coverage to anyone that owns a dog that has been deemed dan-gerous in the current laws of the state of Washington.

The following Opinion—Editorial was printed in the Seattle PI, Friday, 16 November 2007.

More “Insurance Unfairness”: Do You Own a Dog?

If you do, you could see your homeowners’ insurance rates rise, or your insurance decline, based on the breed of dog you have (you know, one of the “dangerous” ones: “Pit Bulls”, Rottweilers, or…). Never mind the Obedience Titles these breeds earn… The Industry’s promulgating of “urban myths” about the danger of certain breeds is an effort to gain control of a market for profit.

U.S. dog owners are seeing their homeowners’ insurance denied, terminated, or rates increased because they own one of the breeds considered “dangerous”. We know, thanks to the horrific criminal behavior of Michael Vick, what creates a “dangerous dog”. With the passage of R 67, at least you now “have a voice about what is fair, and what is not”.

The Industry rails about the cost of dog bites, but ask them how much they pay out for fire or mold in comparison. Attorney Larry Cunningham, then Professor at Texas Tech University, argues in his seminal piece, The Case Against Dog Breed Discrimination by Homeowners' Insurance Companies (Connecticut Insurance Law Journal, p. 8, 2004) that, “while the industry’s aggregate cost figures may sound scary, they misstate the scope of the dog bite problem in the larger context of total claims paid”.

In Washington, the Insurance Commission does not track dog bite risk data.
The insurance industry wants to “capture” the niche of dog ownership for a permanent revenue stream in Washington, (Katrina and now fires in California, are huge losses), hence, they have targeted the mythical “biting” breeds. The sensationalism around bite episodes is used to justify underwriting practices which benefit industry profits.

In fact, A Texas company widened the niche by requiring the reporting of number of dogs in a household. There will be no auto-like discount for “multiple” dogs.

No actuarial data exists for breed specific bite risk; and the CDC admits its own data is statistically flawed. The Industry then argues it does not have to produce any data. Not Fair.

Differentially underwriting those who own a dog that has bitten and been declared dangerous according to Washington law [RCW 16.08.070} by Insurers is fair.

But the real tragedy? A new DNA test called the Canine Heritage Test can identify 37 breeds in a “mixed breed” of dog. The tentacles of the insurance industry can now reach yet more deeply: into the Shelters.

October was National Adopt-A-Shelter Dog Month, and the homeowners’ insurance industry is licking its own chops. Aetna, State Farm, Safeco, and Geico, all require reporting of the mixed breed, or breed one owns, on their applications.

If you are one of those heroic people who adopt dogs, you could be forced to test your mixed pup, and if he/she comes back, let’s say, 1/5 Chow, your rates could increase. If your pup is 1/2 “pit bull”, you could be declined, or your premiums could become unaffordable.

Because you are “doing good” for society, you are punished. The dog you courageously adopted just became too costly to keep. One need not remind others the worst of social policies is to punish the good that is done.

The public policy travesty? The Shelters will be economically decimated from a loss of revenue from adoption and licensing fees. Additionally, the return rate of dogs to Shelters will escalate, and with it, the cost of boarding. Worse, there will be no choice: loving healthy dogs will be put to death.

The insurance industry will then “own” those of us who love dogs; and those who try to save them. Washington must not allow such morally reprehensible policy-making, especially in the wake of R67.

Until the industry can produce actuarial data supporting underwriting differences based on mixed breed and breed of dog [instead of media sensationalism and flawed CDC data], insurers' underwriting decisions cannot be made based on the mixed breed or breed one owns. And exploiting Washington Shelters for profit is not an option. That’s not only “not fair”; it is “bad faith”.

Washingtonians must insist our legislators protect dog ownership, no matter the breed mix, or breed legislation must be written and passed this Session, disallowing insurance underwriting based on spe-cific mix or breed of dog.
Now that’s “fairness in insurance”. Oh, at the Sammamish Kennel Club Dog Show at Marymoor Park last August, a Staffordshire Bull Ter-rier [one of those “vicious” ones] licked this author to death—-my mascara ended on my nose. “Josie” was waiting in line to compete in an Agility Trial.

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