Bully breed owners protected by new law insurers say will raise rates for others

People who own pit bulls could get cheaper and easier insurance because of a new law expected to pass this week. But insurers say that could make it more expensive for everybody else.

Man’s best friend has cost insurance companies more than $1 billion. Insurers say that’s how much they’ve paid out related to dog injuries and the damages in each case are much higher than ever before.

"We’re seeing this precipitous rise in the cost of these dog injuries," said Adam Axvig, CEO of the Minnesota Association of Farm Mutual Insurance Companies.

Axvig says bully breeds are driving the increase. He says less than 10% of dogs in American homes are pit bulls, but they cause more than 60% of dog-related deaths.

Those numbers won’t mean much for insurance companies under the law expected to pass this week in the Minnesota legislature.

A few paragraphs in the commerce finance omnibus bill wouldn’t let insurance companies discriminate in homeowners coverage unless police or animal control deem a specific dog to be dangerous or potentially dangerous, or when a dog or its owner have previously been involved in a dog-related injury.

Pit bull owners say broadly denying insurance to pits is like punishing someone for a crime they haven’t committed.

"The insurance industry uses these arbitrary dog lists to deny homeowners insurance and renters coverage," said Shannon Glenn of My Pit Bull is Family

Glenn says the bill is right to focus on the behavior of a specific dog and its owner, not the size, weight, and perceived breed.

"It’s really just utilizing stereotypes, right?" she said. "As humans, we do that with people and it’s happening with dogs, unfortunately."

Insurers say the change is likely to lead to more damage claims, meaning other homeowners will start footing some of the bill for bully breed owners.

"Given those claims payouts, you could see a rise in your premiums because of it," said Axvig.

The bill came out of conference committee Sunday night, and it’s expected to pass the House and Senate this week.

The dog insurance portion of the bill is set to take effect on April 1 of next year.