About LDN

Letters to the Editor

Lincoln Daily News publishes letters to the editor as they are received.

The letters are not edited in content and do not necessarily reflect 
the views of Lincoln Daily News.

Lincoln Daily News requests that writers responding to controversial issues address the issue and refrain from personal attacks. Thank you!


Submit a letter to the editor online

You may also send your letters by e-mail to  ldneditor@lincolndailynews.com

or by U.S. postal mail:

Letters to the Editor
Lincoln Daily News
601 Keokuk St.
Lincoln, IL  62656

Letters must include the writer's name, telephone number, and postal address or e-mail address (we will not publish address or phone number information). Lincoln Daily News reserves the right to edit letters to reduce their size or to correct obvious errors. Lincoln Daily News reserves the right to reject any letter for any reason. Lincoln Daily News will publish as many acceptable letters as space allows.

Buyer beware: Insurance canceled based on dog breed restrictions

Send a link to a friend

To the editor:

An insurance adjustor came to my property last month to take pictures to verify insurability, and while he was there asked if we had any pets. Yes, we have two birds, a rabbit and a 6-year-old spayed German shepherd, but she wasn't there yet as we were just moving in. A week later I received a nonrenewal letter from Acuity Insurance of Sheboygan, Wis., stating that I had 30 days from the date the letter was sent to find new homeowners insurance. I immediately called, and that's when I found out about "breed restrictions" and that it is completely legal in most states, including Illinois.

Breed restriction, or breed profiling, is an insurance practice similar to racial profiling. Insurance companies judge the family pet based on its "potential," not its behavior. It's all based on the dog's breed, not its deeds. It's purely judgmental, unfair and unscientific, since any dog, regardless of size or breed, can bite if provoked. The key to reducing dog bites is responsible pet ownership. This insurance company did not care about my dog's gender, age or training, or even want to meet my dog. I would have liked the opportunity to defend ourselves as responsible pet owners, but was never given the chance and soon found myself looking for new insurance.

I think money is the motivation that many of the major insurance carriers have for price hikes, coverage limits and high deductibles. If a dog is a well-behaved member of the household and the community, there is no reason to deny or cancel coverage. In fact, I would argue that the dog is an asset, an alarm system whose bark may deter intruders and prevent potential theft and vandalism, or warn people of other hazards.

Dog problems are generally problems with owner responsibility and are not limited to breeds, and when breeds are singled out as dangerous or vicious, responsibility is removed from the dog owner. The dog owner is where the responsibility belongs.

Irresponsible owners are less likely to follow the law, and as result all dog owners have to suffer. Cincinnati, Ohio, overturned its breed-specific law because it was so ineffective, very expensive to enforce and inadequate to protect citizens from dangerous or vicious dogs.

Breeds and mixes can be hard to identify, and often dogs are mislabeled. Again it is all judgmental: "If it looks like a _, it must be a _". With so many mixed-breed dogs out there, will the insurance companies try to use the same one-eighth or one-sixteenth rules that were used to determine race in the 1800s?

Dogs mislabeled by paranoia and prejudice punish those that are good canine citizens. Many of these very same breeds have proven their stability, loyalty and worth serving as assistance dogs for handicapped owners, search and rescue dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and police dogs. The insurance carriers must want to drive them out of the community also.

[to top of second column in this letter]

Banning the so-called dangerous breed will only hasten the upswing in popularity of some other breed until it is accused of attacks on people and declared vicious. The list used by most insurers is already a list of 12 to 15 breeds. Who knows? -- before long it may be all dogs. Why stop there? In order to keep the bottom line, why not penalize all pet owners? There is no valid reason to deprive animal lovers of their well-behaved pets.

Responsible dog owners with the following breeds, beware. You may also find yourself scrambling for new or more expensive coverage, should your insurer find out. Akita, American Staffordshire terrier (aka pit bull), Bernese mountain or cattle dog, Canario (aka Pressa Canario), chow chow, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Great Dane, huskies (American, Eskimo, Greenland, and often but not always Siberian -- better have papers), Karelian (aka Laika), malamute (aka Alaskan malamute), Rhodesian ridgeback, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard. Additionally, although not specific breeds, the following are also often not allowed: any dog mixed with wolf or coyote; any mixed breed with any of the list as part of the mix; or any dog, regardless of breed, trained as a guard dog.

In my opinion, the "mixed with any breed" of the above list gives the insurance companies reason to deny or raise cost to nearly any dog owner.

While Illinois seems to be heading in one direction, three states have now banned breed restrictions by insurers.

Don't wait for disaster: Contact legislators, council members and zoning commissions with concerns about dog laws on the books and suggestions for preventing problems with reasonable laws that protect well-behaved dogs and responsible dog owners while targeting those who actually cause nuisances or endanger public safety.

Brian L. Dukes

= = =

Note from editor: LDN contacted Corey Leonard at Shelter Insurance in Lincoln to substantiate the above information. He said that some insurance companies do practice breed restrictions where there is statistical reputation as a hazard.

He further explained that it is much easier for the insurance company to refuse insurance or charge more when it is a new policy, as this is a new contract being entered into by both parties. Contrarily, it is more difficult for a company to do anything once a policy is in place.

He said he knows of other situations where the agent has gone out and seen a dog of a breed not on the list showing aggressive behavior, and the applicants were turned down as a hazard.

He said he likes to meet a dog in a home and goes by that.

(Posted Sept. 10, 2005)

Click here to send a note to the editor in response.

< Recent letters

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor