ASPCA Commends NY Gov. Hochul for Signing Legislation to End Dog Breed Discrimination by Insurance Companies

New law prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage simply based on the breed of family’s dog, removing housing barriers for thousands of New Yorkers
November 1, 2021

NEW YORK – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) commended New York State lawmakers and Gov. Kathy Hochul for enacting critical legislation to prohibit insurance companies from utilizing the breed of a dog in determining homeowner insurance coverage. With this new law, which goes into effect 90 days after enactment, New York joins Nevada as the only two states that have enacted laws to prohibit this discriminatory practice.

The vast majority of property insurance providers currently deny or significantly increase homeowner coverage and renewals for households with certain breeds of dogs in their homes, yet there is no evidence to support this policy as insurance claim data does not validate the idea that certain breeds of dogs are a bigger risk as compared to non-restricted breeds.

“During a time of unprecedented housing challenges for New Yorkers, the cost and availability of insurance has become an even more onerous barrier to homeownership for families with pets,” said Bill Ketzer, senior director of state legislation for the ASPCA, Eastern Division. “This new law will prevent insurance companies from overcharging or denying families coverage simply because they own a specific breed of dog, removing housing barriers for thousands of responsible New York dog owners. We are grateful to Senator Gianaris and Assemblymember Glick for championing this legislation, and we thank Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law to better protect pets and people across the state.”

“These new laws ensure our animals are treated with the dignity they deserve. Our four-legged friends are valued companions who are parts of our families and deserve to be respected,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris. “We have more work to do but these are important steps forward in the cause of animal rights.”

“Dogs of all breeds are cherished members of our families, yet on the basis of debunked claims and sensational media coverage, the insurance industry has been discriminating against dog owners based solely upon the breed of their companion,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick. “In her later years, my mother had a German Shepherd as her companion – my sisters and I called her Ginger – and she was the sweetest, most gentle dog. Under this new law, no New Yorker will be required by their insurance company to choose between a dog like Ginger and their home. I thank Senator Gianaris for carrying this bill and the Senate, and for Governor Hochul’s compassionate leadership in signing this important measure into law.”

“Too often people have had to make a choice between their beloved pets and homeowners insurance. This is an unfair situation that has now been remedied by Governor Hochul using the power of the pen,” said Libby Post, executive director of the NYS Animal Protection Federation. “The unfair practice of insurance companies discriminating against homeowners based on their breed of dog has been stopped for good in New York State. It is a major step forward--homeowners and their dogs will now be treated fairly. Not only does the Federation thank the Governor but also the extraordinary leadership of State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Deborah Glick. Without their action, this bill would not have seen the light of day.”

In recent years, a growing number of state and local governments have taken action to prohibit regulation of dog ownership based on the breed – or appearance of breed – of the dog. These jurisdictions acknowledge the broad consensus that breed restrictions are an ineffective and inaccurate tool in preventing dog-related risks and instead rely on objective facts in determining if individual dogs pose public risks. Past behavior is a much a stronger indicator of current behavior than genetics, so this legislation specifically reserves insurers’ latitude to cancel, refuse to issue or renew, or to increase premiums for households in which a resident dog of any breed has a history of aggression.

In addition to enacting this new law, state lawmakers acted on several other measures to better protect animals in 2021, including:

  • Renewed the $5 million NYS Companion Animal Capital Fund as part of the 2022 state budget;
  • Prevented burdensome new requirements for veterinarians that would have diminished access to care; and
  • Passed legislation prohibiting the slaughter of racehorses while providing funding for aftercare of retired horses and requiring racehorses to be microchipped.

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