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Good News for Michigan Dog Owners

(Wednesday, October 01, 2003)

With growing frequency nationwide, families are being forced to give up their canine companions because of skyrocketing homeowners' insurance premiums or companies' outright refusal to cover certain breeds. Dog owners in Michigan may now have some reprieve, however, thanks to an important victory by the Michigan Association for Purebred Dogs.

Troubled by countless stories from owners who were cancelled or denied insurance based on the breed of dog they own, the association contacted Michigan's insurance commissioner earlier this year with their concerns. They encouraged dog owners to report specific incidents to the commissioner and also brought the issue to the attention of several state representatives. Ironically, this AKC-affiliated federation was in the process of trying to introduce legislation to end such discrimination when the insurance commissioner issued a statement saying that existing law already prohibited such practice.

Released in September by the Office of Insurance and Financial Services, Bulletin 2003-07-INS states that insurance companies who exclude liability coverage due to ownership of a particular breed of dog are in violation of Michigan's Essential Insurance Act. The statement goes on to say that insurers may cancel or deny coverage to owners based on a dog's bite history related to paid claims, but only after written notice to the policy holder and the Office of Financial and Insurance Services.

The American Kennel Club believes that insurance companies should determine coverage of a dog-owning household based on the dog's deeds, not the dog's breed. 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, insurance companies should consider a dog an asset, a natural alarm system whose bark may deter intruders and prevent potential theft.

AKC commends both the Michigan Association of Purebred Dogs and the Michigan Office of Insurance Services on their efforts to protect the rights of responsible dog owners. We strongly encourage owners in other states to pursue this issue with their own commissioners and legislators, as similar code may already exist to guard them against unfair insurance practices.