Man's best friend may pose an insurance risk

Some dog breeds and exotic pets often excluded from liability coverage

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – For Karen Bosia, an eye-opening experience started with a phone call.  

"I was inquiring about a homeowner's policy, I wanted to bundle it with my auto and motorcycle," Bosia said.

The second question in the phone call with the agent surprised Bosia.

"She asked, ‘Do you have dogs', I was like, ‘Yes'.  Then she said, ‘Are they part pit bull or Staffordshire terrier?' and I said, ‘Yeah, they're a mix' and she said, ‘I'm sorry, you don't qualify for our insurance," Bosia said  

Insurance experts say many consumers are unaware of the potential for animal exclusions in their homeowners insurance policy.

"People buy insurance, and they believe I'm buying everything under the sun, and in reality you're not," said Davor Mimica, president of InSource Insurance in Kendall.

Mimica said there are in fact more than a dozen dog breeds blacklisted by many insurance companies.

"That's plain discrimination," Bosia said.

Insurance experts say it all comes down to liability.

"The ownership of a pet can influence what may or may not happen in your home," Mimica said.

Some states restrict the use of dog breed profiling by insurance companies, but Florida is not one of them.   

If your pet is restricted, experts recommend shopping for a special pet policy if possible.

"If you know your insurance coverage isn't going to cover a bite then you know you have to safeguard yourself and your property to limit the amount of potential risk," Mimica said.

Bosia believes insurance companies should approach animal risk just as they do anything else.

"They take your driving history into account when they determine your auto rates, why not do the same with animal ownership," Bosia said.  "I've never had an incident in 27 years out of six dogs that I've owned; that should account for something."

In determining what breeds to deny, some insurance companies draw from studies by the U.S. National Center for Injury Prevention but any dog bite that gets wide media coverage can also lead to a backlash against a specific breed.

Not all insurance companies have breed ban policies and the types of breeds that are banned can vary widely as well as the type of animal.   

Some insurance companies will not cover injuries caused by an exotic pet.   

The following is a list of some commonly banned breeds:

  • Pit bull terrier
  • Staffordshire terrier
  • Rottweiler
  • German shepherd
  • Presa Canario
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman pinscher
  • Akita
  • Mastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • Alaskan malamute
  • Siberian husky

About the Author:

Jacey Birch anchors Local 10 News Mornings each weekday from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. She is also proud to be the animal advocate for Local 10's investigative team.