Doggone it! Pet owners growling over dog insurance bill in Texas
Angry dog owners are taking aim at a Texas bill that would require many of them to carry liability insurance for their pooches.
H.B. 998, sponsored by state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, would mandate that an owner of an unneutered male dog that’s at least 20 pounds and not restrained at all times — either on a leash or “in a secure enclosure” — buy liability insurance coverage of $100,000 or more. Most hunting dogs, and even many companion dogs, would fit the bill’s descriptions.
Under the proposal, a dog owner who fails to buy the mandated insurance could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
|Owners of large dogs, including ones used for hunting, would be required to obtain liability insurance under a proposal by Texas state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon.|
One critic complains that the bill amounts to “puppy profiling.”
McClendon, D-San Antonio, told WOAI-AM that unrestrained, unneutered male dogs weighing at least 20 pounds “have a higher tendency toward aggression.” This type of dog, she says, is the most likely to cause injury or property damage.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 percent of all dog bite cases involve unneutered male dogs. In 2006, according to the CDC, 97 percent of all dog-related human deaths in the United States involved unneutered animals.
McClendon says the bill was prompted by a San Antonio constituent who was attacked by a neighbor’s dog. The constituent contacted the dog owner, but the neighbor didn’t take responsibility for the dog’s action, according to McClendon. She told WOAI-AM that her bill promotes “personal responsibility.”
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, a pro-hunting group, says McClendon’s bill would force many owners of hunting dogs to buy insurance, neuter their hounds or face criminal charges.
“It is completely unreasonable to require a dog owner who wants take their dog hunting or to even play fetch in an unfenced back yard to require them to purchase liability insurance to do so,” Jeremy Rine, associate director of state services for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, says in a statement.
“In addition to being costly for dog owners, this bill sets an arbitrary weight threshold – what happens if you have a dog that regularly fluctuates between 19 and 20 pounds? This bill is unnecessary and unreasonable and should be opposed by all dog owners alike.”
The Texas Dog Commission, whose leader is Houston trial attorney Zandra Anderson, says it’s unclear whether a homeowner’s insurance policy would be sufficient to meet the requirement under McClendon’s bill. Texas does not mandate the purchase of homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance.
Under home insurance policies, the maximum for dog bite coverage generally ranges from $100,000 to $300,000. Separate dog liability policies usually provide up to $100,000 worth of protection.
“There are actually some animal control authorities that will not accept homeowner’s liability insurance for a dog that has been deemed dangerous,” Anderson, who promotes herself as the “Texas Dog Lawyer,” says on her website. “The cost of an individual policy for a dog is outrageous. More children are hurt on bicycles every year than are injured by dogs, but the state does not mandate insurance for bicycle riders.”
The Oklahoma-based Endangered Breeds Association says it’s watching McClendon’s bill carefully to ensure that specific breeds aren’t added to it. The association fights against breed-specific dog legislation and against “unfair harassment” of certain breeds, such as pit bulls, by government agencies and officials.
Referring to the Texas measure, the Endangered Breeds Association says: “Since responsible pet owners, particularly those who have children come to their homes, have liability insurance anyway, this bill is not necessary.”