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Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

February 8, 2022

New York State Limits Insurers' Rights to Refuse Homeowners' Policies Based on Dog Breed

Effective January 28, 2022, New York State amended the New York Insurance Law by adding a new section 3421, prohibiting any homeowners’ insurer from considering the breed of an insured’s dog during the underwriting process.  

The new section 3421 seeks to address the historical practice among some insurers of refusing to issue homeowners’ policies, or charging higher premiums, if an insured owns certain dog breeds, such as pit bull terriers. Insurers are now prohibited from refusing to issue or renew, cancelling, or charging higher premiums “based solely upon harboring or owning any dog of a specific breed or mixture of breeds.”

On the other hand, the new section 3421 contains a specific exception if the dog is designated as a “dangerous dog” under New York Agriculture and Markets Law § 123. This exception is fairly limited in its application, though, as the designation of a dog as a “dangerous dog” requires a judicial determination that either the dog has already attacked a person, companion animal, or farm animal or the dog poses a “serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.”  

Between the blanket prohibition of underwriting solely based on breed and the single exception for dogs that have either bitten or are an imminent threat lies a population of dogs that have been specifically bred for their aggressive tendencies and pose a significant risk of injury. The new section 3421 does not address the risks posed by that population of dogs; it remains to be seen whether further clarification from the Department of Financial Services will clarify how these risks can be accurately underwritten.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Joe Wilson, counsel, at jwilson@barclaydamon.com; Tony Piazza, Insurance Coverage & Regulation Practice Area chair, at apiazza@barclaydamon.com; or another member of the firm’s Insurance Coverage & Regulation Practice Area.

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