Does your home insurance protect or discriminate?

For those of us concerned about breed-specific legislation (BSL), finding housing requires extra steps and research. You need to scrutinize your city’s bylaws as well as any strata bylaws or rental policies that might affect you.

Once you’ve found a home where your entire family is welcome, do you know that the same level of research is required when procuring home insurance? Unfortunately, many companies have breed and other exclusions in their policies. What’s more, it can be very difficult to pin down exactly what these mean to you.

We began researching insurance policies with the intent of providing an easy reference guide for dog owners looking for insurance providers. You’d think it would be a matter of calling an insurance representative and getting a simple answer to the questions “do you have breed exclusions in any of your home insurance policies?” and “what is the nature of these exclusions?”

It’s definitely not! We found that most policy advisors are not well versed on breed exclusions that exist. Some were not sure if breed was an issue at all; if it was, no one we spoke to could readily answer questions like how the breed of dog was to be determined in case of a claim, and how mixed breeds would be treated. We also got the impression that advisors may not be proactive in asking detailed questions about family pets – and people assume if they are not asked, the breed is not a consideration.

As far as we can tell, breed restrictions only apply with respect to liability coverage for something dog-related. So if your house burns down it shouldn’t matter what breed your dog is, which is a relief. But if there is an accident or injury caused by your dog, and you are insured with a company that has breed exclusions, your liability insurance may not cover this.

You may be tempted to think this doesn’t affect you if you have a friendly dog. “My dog would never bite anyone!” What if your friendly dog knocks someone over and they sprain an ankle? What if another dog starts a fight and your dog is blamed for responding? What if your dog is blamed for something a similar-looking dog did? This last scenerio may seem far-fetched but we know of this happening, and legal fees may be involved to exonerate you and your dog.

The following companies, at the time we did our research, appear to be breed-neutral:

  • Wawanesa Insurance
  • Intact Insurance
  • Optimum West Insurance Company
  • Aviva Canada
  • CNS
  • Travelers Canada
  • Family Insurance Solutions

In other conversations, we were told that companies like The Cooperators and BCAA, will insure all breeds but only under specific circumstances. They will ask questions if they learn that certain breeds – including pit bull breeds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas – are in the home. They will be looking for any sign that the dog is a guard dog, has an aggression history, or poses a bite risk.

Also – and this surprised us – these companies may consider a dog to be aggressive if local bylaws deem it to be so. That means that your well-trained, family pet won’t be a problem when insuring your home in Vancouver, but if you moved to Burnaby (a city with BSL) the insurance company may now consider that same dog to be aggressive.

Some insurance companies exclude certain breeds altogether. A rep at Westland Insurance told us pit bulls and Rottweilers are excluded entirely. A Global article from 2012 listed Canadian Direct, Allstate, Scotiabank, and Alberta Motor Association as companies that won’t insure certain breeds of dogs. We have attempted to reach out to these companies but have not received a response.

Breed issues aside, did you know that owning more than two dogs might be considered an additional risk? The insurance company may consider it additional liability and this can affect your coverage.

We will continue to research this topic and provide updates. In the meantime, if you are purchasing or renewing your insurance policy, we recommend asking your advisor directly whether there are any restrictions based on the type or number of dogs you own. If they respond immediately and confidently that they are breed-neutral, that’s good news. For full peace of mind you may want to record the date, time, and name of the rep you spoke to, or ask them to confirm via email. And when you receive the actual policy, take another look at any pet-related sections to ensure nothing was missed.

If your representative can’t provide you with a satisfactory answer, or they require more information based on your dog’s breed or perceived breed, ensure that everything is documented. Perhaps ask them to send their questions by email so that you have a paper trail of your responses should it be an issue down the road.

Liability insurance is important, and you are paying for it. We feel that every consumer should be aware of what they are buying – and if you don’t own a targeted breed you can still choose to support companies that implement evidence-based, breed-neutral policies.

Please note
This research was done by volunteers as a public service, over the course of several months. It is focused on companies serving BC at this time, as that is where we are based. We strive to provide correct information but cannot guarantee it due to changing policies and human error. If you have any information that contradicts or adds to the above article, please contact us at info@dogbitefacts.org. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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