A ban on pit bulls may soon be repealed by the town council in Castle Rock, a move the breed’s advocates hope other cities will imitate.
One of the fastest-growing municipalities in Colorado, Castle Rock would weigh a dog’s behavior rather than its breed in issuing licenses.
Assuming the council votes for the repeal, advocates of the breed have plenty of work ahead. More than 700 U.S. cities have legislation on their books typically regulating ownership, if not banning, pit bulls.
All of this, as you might expect, complicates things on the insurance front, but let’s look at some of the facts first.
At the University of California Davis, researchers last year concluded that “dog bites from pit bull terriers, compared to bites from all other dogs, are more common, more severe, and not related to the dog being provoked.”
Another study found “pit bull bites were implicated in half of all surgeries performed and (that pit bulls were) over 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds.”
Perhaps most troubling, pit bulls were involved in 64 percent of the 360 fatal dog attacks in the U.S. between 2005 and 2015, according to DogsBite.org.
Dogs of all kinds behaving badly are costing their owners – and insurance companies – a good deal of money.
Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowner’s liability claims paid out in 2016, amounting to more than $600 million. Just as dramatically, the average cost per claim nationally — $33,230 in 2016 – was up by more than 70 percent compared to 2003 because of higher medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs.
Pit bull advocates correctly argue that even dogs that are normally docile may bite when they are frightened or when defending their owners, food or puppies.
They’ll also assert, again accurately, that the most dangerous dogs are those that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training, irresponsible ownership and breeding practices that foster viciousness.
How Are Your Limits?
The elected leaders of Castle Rock (and other municipalities) may be persuaded by such arguments. Insurance carriers, however, aren’t likely to swing over to their side any time soon, if ever, not in light of the statistics above.
In fact, some insurance companies simply won’t even insure homeowners who own certain breeds of dogs – including pit bulls.
Those that do will, at a minimum, require the owner take the dog to behavior classes. Others go as far as to ask dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites.
And once a dog has bitten someone, the insurance carrier is likely to raise premiums, if not drop the homeowner’s policy altogether or exclude the dog from coverage.
The bottom line here is, if you own a pit bull or are thinking of buying one, make sure your coverage limits are adequate. A homeowner with $250,000 in liability coverage could find themselves in deep trouble if they’re taken to court for millions of dollars.
By the way, many carriers feel the same way about Rottweilers, German shepherds and Doberman pinschers, among other breeds, so pit bulls and their owners aren’t alone.
Matt Genova is the Personal Lines manager at CCIG. Reach him at MattG@thinkccig.com or 720-330-7936.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you manage your long-term cost of insurance with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.