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New York Governor Signs New Law Prohibiting Insurers From Refusing To Issue Or Renew Policies Based Solely On Breed of Dog

October 4, 2012

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<p style="text-align: justify;">On October 30, 2021, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed Senate Bill 4254, preventing insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners based on the breed of dog they own. The new law provides, “with respect to homeowners’ insurance policies…no insurer shall refuse to issue or renew, cancel, charge or impose an increased premium or rate…based solely upon harboring or owning any dog of a specific breed or mixture of breeds.” The law is scheduled to take effect in January 2022 and will apply to all policies issued, renewed, modified, or altered after the effective date.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The law has received praise from members of the New York legislature and animal rights groups. Assembly member Deborah Glick commented, “For too long, people have been discriminated against by insurance companies based solely on the breed of their companion dog - forcing them to choose between stable housing and their companion animals based on the misguided belief that dog breeds determine behavior, rather than proper training and socialization.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">However, New York law still allows insurance companies to cancel, increase rates, or refuse to issue policies if a dog is declared “dangerous” based on “sound underwriting and actuarial principles reasonably related to actual or anticipated loss experience.”</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Navigating these interrelated rules may pose a challenge to insurers. Companies will no longer be able to base underwriting and premium decisions on a particular dog breed and may have to evaluate the specific behavior, history, and training of homeowners’ dogs on a case-by-case basis.  To address an increased risk that may be associated with dog ownership, some insurers have included dog bite exclusions in homeowners’ policies while others offer separate Canine Liability insurance.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">New York homeowners’ insurers should consider how the new law impacts their underwriting and risk assessment for homeowners’ policies and the type and extent of coverage provided to dog owners in the future.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thank you to Alexandra Deplas for her contribution to this post. Please e-mail <a href="">Andrew Gibbs</a> with any questions.</p>

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