Insuring dog lovers

Smiling person behind an aging black and white pit-bull-type dog who is smiling
New laws protect people in Illinois from being denied homeowners or renters insurance because of their dog’s breed.
By Kelli Harmon

For those of us who believe that home is wherever our dogs are, the rules around where your beloved pup is allowed matter a whole lot. If the place you live allows dogs of all shapes and sizes (as it should be) but your insurance company denies you coverage because of your dog’s breed, well, that’s an all-too-common problem.

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“Housing and insurance issues are the No. 1 reason why dogs are relinquished to animal shelters,” says Ledy VanKavage, Best Friends senior legislative attorney. That’s why Best Friends worked with the National Council of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL) back in 2022 to adopt model legislation to establish that insurers can’t deny people coverage based solely on their dog’s breed. It set the stage to introduce statewide bills around the country.

[Keeping pets and families together]

Best Friends wasted no time spearheading a bill in Illinois, sponsored by Rep. Rita Mayfield. The bill passed in March 2023 and went into effect in December. It’s fantastic news for all families with dogs. “People freak out when they find their insurance is going to be canceled simply because they’ve gotten a certain breed of dog,” Ledy says.

Text from Illinois’ new law, based on model legislation

No insurer shall refuse to issue or renew, cancel, or charge or impose an increased premium or rate for a policy or contract, or exclude, limit, restrict, or reduce coverage for a policy or contract based solely upon harboring or owning any dog of a specific breed or mix. It does not prohibit an insurer from refusing to issue or renew or from canceling a policy or imposing an increased fee based upon the designation of an individual dog of any breed or mix as a dangerous or vicious dog under the Illinois Animal Control Act.

Bills also passed in Colorado and Minnesota, joining five other states with good laws already in place: Arizona, Michigan, New York, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. It’s tremendous progress in the right direction to support people who live with and love dogs of all breeds, shapes, and sizes. Ledy adds, “These statewide laws will help keep dogs in their homes with their families, where they belong.”

This article was originally published in the March/April 2024 issue of Best Friends magazine. Want more good news? Become a member and get stories like this six times a year.

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