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August 8, 2012

Connecticut home to insurance companies—and dogs.

Insurance companies in Connecticut sometimes seem as numerous as dogs. The state calls itself The Insurance Capital of America and is headquarters to about 70 insurance companies. As a segment of the economy, insurance plays a larger role in Connecticut than in any other state. As of a decade ago, more than three percent of total employment in Connecticut was with insurance companies, more than any other state.

But not every person works to turn out insurance policies. Enough people fish for a living to make Connecticut the second largest oyster producer in the country. Still others just relax, walking their dogs at one of the Long Island Sound’s many Connecticut resorts.

Connecticut homeowners love their dogs, just as do their counterparts across the United States. The love runs deeper than the hostility the dog owners sometimes encounter, especially when the animals they cherish are known to be of a breed associated with unwarranted attacks on unsuspecting humans.

Such attacks frequently occur on private property, including at private residences. These attacks especially give homeowners insurance companies heartburn. It follows that companies look with disapproval on certain breeds of dogs that are sharing the home and yard of a homeowner insurance policyholder.

The breeds often targeted for concern include pit bull, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire bull terrier, and half-breed wolves of any kind. Too many legs have been chewed on and—in the most tragic cases—children and adults killed in attacks from these animals that were initially bred to be attack animals.

Yet insurers cannot in most cases ban such dogs from a homeowner policyholder’s property. Laws preventing such discrimination among homeowners, because of pets in the home, are on the books in most states, though the issue is a live one. The American Kennel Club website lists 6 states where pending legislation on homeowner insurance can affect dog lovers.

Connecticut lawmakers addressed the issue in 2011, working through legislation that would prohibit insurers from issuing policies to homeowners with dogs based upon the breed of the dog owned. The legal debate is trying to resolve legitimate concerns about sweeping insurer bias against owners of particular breeds, and genuine residential fears about being attacked without provocation. The debate will continue.