When Your Dog is a Victim of Discrimination

July 3, 2012

The folks at 1800-PetMeds have asked that we share their views on a topic that is very important to us – breed specific legislation. So today we are featuring a guest blog post from Jackie Roberts of 1-800-PetMeds about this issue.  Of course, the views expressed by our guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of Pet Camp (but then again they might).  Let us know if you’re interested in being a guest blogger.  Thanks for reading!

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You love your dog. You know he’s sweet, friendly, and playful, and that he’s not aggressive, or prone to biting. He’s gentle with you whether you’re giving him a treat, or administering pet meds. But he’s a Pit Bull—or a Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, or a German Shepherd—and because of that one and only fact, he’s deemed inherently dangerous or vicious by property renters, insurance companies, some of your neighbors, and by more and more legislators.

It’s bad enough when you have a hard time finding a rental property that will welcome your family dog, or getting reasonable homeowners insurance rates. The situation is worsening as lawmakers jump on the breed-specific legislation bandwagon and continue to create regulations, ordinances, and even statewide laws banning certain “dangerous” or “bully” breeds from living in certain areas. What if you have to move to one of those areas in order to keep your job? Here are a few tips on how to handle discriminatory situations brought about by your dog’s breed.

Rental Properties

Whether it’s a single-family home or an apartment complex, you have little control over whether your dog breed will be allowed to live there. It’s completely a landlord’s or property management company’s prerogative to deny residence to anyone with a breed they have deemed dangerous. The law is also on their side because this kind of exclusion is considered a safety measure that favors the majority. Landlords are also concerned about liability.

While landlords and property rental companies cannot discriminate against anyone based on factors such as race, ethnicity, sex, physical disability, etc., they can—and do—discriminate on the basis of the breed of any prospective renter’s dog. Your only recourse is to find a landlord or apartment complex that will accept your dog. Just be aware that you may be required to pay a higher deposit.

Insurance

You understand the need for homeowners and renters insurance, and that it’s not only about protecting your own property, but the safety and well-being of others who may be injured while on your property either by slipping and falling, or some other hazard. Some insurance companies see your bully breed dog as one of those hazards, to the point that many of those companies will deny you coverage.

If you don’t tell the company you have a dog they consider dangerous, and your dog does bite someone, you can forget having a claim approved. You may even lose your coverage altogether. While some insurance providers will write you a policy when you own a Rottweiler or Pit Bull (or even a Great Dane or a Chow), you may have to pay higher premiums for the perceived higher risk of injury.

Breed-Specific Legislation

Twelve states have some form of breed-specific legislation or another. Several military bases have regulations against keeping certain breeds or breed mixes in base housing as well. What does this mean for you if you want—or need—to move to an area with a ban in place?

Miami Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle was dismayed to discover that he and his family would not be able to move near the Marlins’ new stadium after he signed with the team. The Buehrle family has a Pit Bull named Slater, and Miami-Dade County has had a Pit Bull ban in place since 1989. The family moved to nearby Broward County instead. It’s well documented that breed-specific legislation doesn’t work. But if you plan to move to another city for work, find out about the local laws pertaining to certain breeds before you start house hunting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data on reported dog bites. Every year, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs, and yes, many of those dogs doing the biting are Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and other dogs that are considered dangerous based solely on their breeds. The problem is that statistics are based on reported incidents, and it’s not out of line to think someone will be more apt to report a bite from a Pit Bull than from a Chihuahua. This doesn’t mean those bites happen less frequently, or that certain breeds are more predisposed to biting than others. It means that, like many statistics, the numbers are skewed by the reporting—or lack thereof.

While you may have to take more time finding a place to live, do a little more shopping for insurance, and avoid moving anywhere with a breed ban in place, there are other, more positive actions you can take. Get involved in educating the public about your pet’s breed, or all breeds that are unfairly vilified. Become an advocate, and work toward eradicating ignorance and knee-jerk legislative reactions that are often based on one incident. Help shine a spotlight on the loving, loyal, sweet dogs you know so well. Your dog is relying on you to speak for him. Don’t let him down.

Jackie is a writer for 1-800-PetMeds, and loves to help and support the pet community. You can find Pet Meds on Twitter or connect with Pet Meds on Facebook.

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