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States move to stop insurance companies from discriminating against your dog

When it comes to dogs, insurance companies keep their customers on a short leash. In most states, home insurance providers are allowed to consider your dog's breed when setting your monthly premium — or whether they'll insure you at all. Earlier this month, Nevada broke from the pack and barred the practice, ensuring dog owners can get the coverage they need even if their pet is considered high-risk. Michigan and Pennsylvania already have similar rules regarding denial of coverage, and a ban for New York state is awaiting Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature. What if you don't live in a puppy-loving state? Here's more on which breeds are most likely to raise your premiums and what you can do about it.
Which breeds are typically discriminated against?
Insurance providers don't typically publish lists of which dogs they consider risky or dangerous, but numerous sources have reported that the following breeds could put you in a bind:
  • Pit bulls
  • German Shepherds
  • Akitas
  • Staffordshire Terriers
  • Chow
  • Alaskan Malamutes
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Great Danes
  • Siberian Huskies
  • Rottweilers
  • Presa Canarios
  • Wolf hybrids

Of that list, you'll likely have the most trouble with pitbulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids. Once they learn of your dog's descent, home insurance companies may require owners to exclude dog liability coverage from their policy, increase their rates or cancel their policies outright.

Why do insurers do this?

Most home insurance policies provide coverage for dog-based damage. That means if your pet ever bites a neighbor or rips up their prized petunias, you'll be able to file a claim to cover the medical or repair bills. While your dog's breed is by no means a perfect predictor of whether it will attack someone or cause property damage, many insurers feel confident that genetic differences will influence a pet's temperament and statistical chance of causing trouble. If a breed startles easily, tends to be aggressively protective or is simply big and strong, it's considered much more likely to hurt someone or cause property damage, even unintentionally. Injuries and property damage from dogs are some of the most common liability claims made on a home insurance policy. And dog bite claims can get very expensive: The average cost last year was $50,425, according to the industry group the Insurance Information Institute.

Do dog owners have any recourse?

Beyond lobbying your state government, there's not much you can do about your insurance company's policy on dogs. However, that doesn't mean you have to settle for paying more. Not every provider discriminates against dog breeds. Even if most of the carriers in your area do discriminate, they may not all share the same list. That means if you shop around, you may be able to find a much cheaper rate on your homeowners insurance. The Insurance Information Institute recommends you compare at least three quotes before settling on an offer to ensure you get the best possible rate. Annual savings can total $1,000 or more once you tally up all of the factors involved. If that method doesn't work for you, you can always look into getting dog-specific insurance or umbrella coverage to supplement what your home insurer won't cover.

Where to go from here?

If your home insurance rates still end up sky high because of your beloved pet, you have a few options to offset your costs.

Become your own insurance adjustor. Take a look at your other policies — you may be overpaying for auto insurance by almost $100 every month. To ensure you're getting the best possible rate, always shop around.

Refinance your mortgage and slash your payments. Mortgage rates are still at some of the lowest levels in history. Refinancing your current home loan could save you thousands over the course of this year alone. The mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight says 14.1 million homeowners could refi and cut their payments by an average of $287 every month.

Invest like a pro for pennies. With some leading-edge technology, it's possible to turn your nickels and dimes into major profits. Download a popular app that allows you to invest your "spare change" and watch your modest investments grow into a diversified portfolio.

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