Four years ago, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times. In it, I stated, "Outlaw the English mastiff, the pit bull, the American Staffordshire terrier and the Rottweiler, and soon it will be the springer spaniel, the Boston terrier and the Old English sheep dog. Eventually, we will legislate some of our best friends into extinction. Aggressive behavior in dogs is not a dog problem. It is a people problem."
It saddens me to say, "I told you so," but that's what I must do. United Property and Casualty, a company that covers Florida and Georgia, has added the cocker spaniel to its do not insure list, which also includes, among others, any pit bull breed, Doberman pinscher, Rottweiler, German shepherd, keeshond, Great Dane, chow chow and Akita. Are you outraged? Is your blood pressure rising? If you are the owner of a Ccocker Sspaniel, do you feel like slamming your fist into a wall? Probably.
Is the anti-breed list illogical? Of course it is. It will not solve the aggressive dog/dog bite problem, because aggression is not breed specific. There are aggressive dogs in all breeds just as there are nonagressive canines in every breed. And if you think about it in those terms, the same applies to race in humans.
I received a very straightforward and informative e-mail from an insurance agent in Florida. Here's what he said.
Dear Uncle Matty: I am an insurance agency owner in Merritt Island, Fla., and have read your commentary about insurance companies and risks relating to dogs. In your article titled "Take a stand against insurance companies," you asked to hear from folks who have experience with insurance companies and dog issues. I am an agent who writes policies for homeowners with dogs located on their premises every day. Obviously, there is a difficulty in getting many companies to accept dogs under their company underwriting guidelines, but there are also a few companies that will take a homeowners risk when a dog is present. For those folks who have found resistance to acquiring insurance when a dog is present, my advice is call around and check with at least four independent agencies. Independent agents represent several companies while the captive agencies like Allstate, State Farm, Prudential, etc. usually are only quoting with one source.
I have my own opinions on how the more well-known companies stated above handle their risk placement, but competition is healthy for business and consumers who apply themselves when shopping for insurance. Call around, and ask if the agency has a "specialist" in homeowners risk. You will normally find a well-educated, experienced agent who knows what companies will accept pets with a homeowners risk policy. Also, it is not just dogs that create difficulty when trying to purchase home insurance. Homes that have exotic pets or large animals like horses also have a degree of difficulty. —Russell Jamieson, Atlass Insurance Group, Merritt Island, Fla.
We spoke with Mr. Jamieson, and he can write policies for homeowners, but in all cases, he must exclude the dog from coverage. Because he is an independent agent and represents a number of companies, most of them have an anti-breed list of some kind. If you need help, his number is 321-459-9905. Mention that you are calling because you have a dog.
If you are an insurance agent or broker who deals with homeowners and renters policies, please let us know if you can help dog owners in any state. If you had difficulty getting insurance or have found coverage, we'd like to hear about that, too, and the name of the insurance company. Please e-mail dearuncleunclematty.com, and include details and how to reach you. Or write to us. We are so grateful for your input in our efforts to help dog owners and insurance companies. For helpful information, visit www.unclematty.com/woofpub/articles/areyouliable.htm. WOOF! —Uncle Matty
Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Read all of Uncle Matty's columns at the Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to dearuncle.gazetteunclematty.com or mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.