Pit Bulls are no longer considered vicious dogs in Ohio. So what does this mean for your insurance?

It’s a watershed moment in the Buckeye State.

Legislation was just passed to eliminate a 1987 law that declared pit bull dogs inherently vicious- meaning they were vicious simply due to their breed. The original law was the only one of its kind in the entire United States  to include breed-specific language. 

Then came House Bill 350, passed in 2001. This legislation required that owners of vicious dogs purchase a minimum of $100,000 liability insurance (you would achieve this by purchasing a homeowners or renter’s policy). This is when the insurance companies became VERY interested in the legislation.  Makes sense- they’re looking at potential claims.

In brief, here are the major points of the new law:
  • Removal of breed-specific language to determine whether vicious or not
  • Creation of three categories of dogs (and I’m pulling this directly from the bill language)
  • Nuisance dog- without provocation and while off the premises of its owner has chased or approached a person in either a menacing fashion or an apparent attitude of attack or has attempted to bite or otherwise endanger any person
  • Dangerous dog- without provocation, has caused injury, other than killing or serious injury to any person; has killed another dog; or has been the subject of a third or subsequent violation of a prohibition regarding general confinement or control of dogs
  • Vicious dog- without provocation, has killed or caused serious injury to any person and repeals the automatic inclusion of a pit bull dog as a vicious dog.
  • Stipulates additional confinement options for a dangerous or vicious dog.
  • Removes the mandatory liability insurance requirement unless the dog has had three or more violations
  • Requires registration/certification with various government entities
  • The executive summary lists 5 pages of bullet points. I’m purposefully being brief, as the point of this post is not to dissect the finer points of the law, but rather its insurance implications. You can read the entire law here.

    Insurance Implications
    Requiring the owners to have liability insurance is NOT the same as requiring that insurance companies issue the policy.

    And nowhere is that mentioned in the current (or new) law. It doesn’t say “Insurance Company X is required to issue a policy for owners of dangerous or vicious dogs.” Homeowners insurance companies still have the ability to underwrite a policy and say Yes or No. Insurance is all about risk- and if the company sees a risk they’re unwilling to take, they won’t.

    This is not an arbitrary decision, by the way. Insurers have paid tons of dog bite claims over many years. They’ve got data on type of dog and dollar amount paid. In fact, I stumbled across a very interesting infographic from the Insurance Information Institute that shows dog bite claims paid out in 2011 (by state). Ohio ranks #4, by my math.  You can see how your state ranks by visiting http://www.iii.org/dog-bite-claims-infographic.html.  So, yes, I’m confident there’s plenty of data out there to support their decision.

    And so, we insurance folk got underwriting restrictions like below. This is taken directly from one of my company’s manuals, so it’s bona fide, in-the-trenches information:



    Just because the State of Ohio no longer considers a dog vicious does not mean insurance companies must (or will) follow suit

    This is almost laughable to me. There is no way in the free world the insurance companies are going to roll over (pun fully intended)  and say, “OK, well the law says pit bulls aren’t vicious, so heck , yeah, we’ll insure that risk.” Again, they’ve paid the claims. They don’t want the risk.  And if I’m wrong, the so be it.  But I just don’t see it.

    The liability insurance requirement has no “teeth” (another pun fully intended)

    The law says that if a dog has three or more violations, the owner is required to obtain liability insurance with an insurer authorized to write liability insurance in Ohio.   This is the same as trying to get health insurance as you’re being wheeled into the operating room. Um… it’s too late at that point. No standard company in Ohio will do it. Because it’s another claim waiting to happen.

    And if a non-standard company does agree to issue a policy, the dog owner will balk (or dare I say bark?) at the premium (because it WILL be expensive).

    So what impact do I think this new law will have on homeowner’s liability insurance in Ohio?


    Your thoughts?


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    About Carrie Reynolds

    During the day, I'm an Ohio Insurance Goddess, an agent, and a writer. At night, I turn into Supermom. My passions are marketing, writing, and making insurance easier for everyone to understand.