Before we begin tackling the great issues that so many of you have raised, we thought it best to wrap up the idea Rich proposed on requiring insurance here. There were rather mixed reactions on the initial idea and I again just want to say that it is merely that: an idea. And one that I personally think at least warrants discussion. Whether or not anything ever comes of it, I think it never hurts to discuss new ideas, think outside the box, and open ourselves to progress; after all, we all have the same end goal: happy, healthy, properly cared for and managed dogs. I for one am open to any idea that helps us get there! So without further ado, I give you Rich.
Hello again THPL followers! In the first part of this post I discussed three potential benefits of requiring liability insurance to be carried on all dogs regardless of breed or history. In this part I will present a couple of more benefits.
First, just as a refresher the basic structure of the system that I proposed consisted of requiring all dog owners to carry liability insurance policies on each dog that they own. The only requirements of the policies would be a certain threshold coverage amount (the Tennessee bill that inspired this idea has a minimum policy amount of $25,000 though that seems high in my opinion) and that in order to insure the dog it has to be microchipped with the owner’s information (and proof of insurance).
Now on to the additional benefits:
First, since the microchipping is a required part of obtaining the insurance this would dramatically cut back on the amount of legitimately lost dogs in the shelters. Additionally, as each dog is microchipped and the owner’s information is readily accessible, people may be less willing to leave their dog in a shelter drop-box, or just release their dog when their use for it has ended. Many people would not do these things if they could not do so with anonymity. Additionally, we can remove the ability of these people to do so with impunity, by requiring them to keep the insurance premiums current on any dog of theirs that ends up at a shelter, either as a drop-off or a stray, until that dog is adopted and has a new policy taken out on it.
While this may be hard to enforce in practice, what can be done is that the owner will be unable to receive a refund on premiums that have already been paid for a dog that ends up in a shelter. The shelter south of town here gets in a lot of Hounds at a certain time of year. The reason for this, Morgan has told me, is that hunters will get the dogs to help them during hunting season, and then at the end of the season they find it cheaper to just release the dogs into the woods than to feed them and keep them until the following year. By requiring premiums to be paid for a year at a time (a lot of car insurance companies require, or at least offer a discount, that you pay premiums six months at a time), and only offering a refund if a vet puts down the dog due to natural causes and issues a certificate stating such, we can at least keep them from doing this with impunity. Additionally with the microchipping and database with owner records, we could potentially keep track of which owners allow their dogs to go to shelters, and do not retrieve them when contacted by the shelter. Reputable breeders and shelters can then use this information in running their adoption programs. Thus owners will no longer be able to just keep their dog through hunting season and then release them with impunity; we will be able to single them out as bad owners, and refuse to let them adopt! This would obviously extend beyond the “bad” hunters that I have discussed; they are merely one example.
Finally, a benefit that many may see as being the biggest of them all: ending BSL! I know, it’s a lofty goal, but I think that even if this will not end it, it will definitely be a step in the right direction. I’m going to start my discussion on this point with a little economics, so please forgive me. Currently owning any dog comes with certain externalities, namely the danger that your dog, if not properly managed, can cause bodily harm and property damage to those around you. Owning a “dangerous” or “aggressive” dog increases this danger, and many people automatically lump some breeds into that category, regardless of the behavior of the individual dogs. While the tort system has been able to transfer some of this risk back to the owner, it is not perfect: many people are “judgment proof,” meaning that they do not have enough assets to be able to pay for injuries caused by their actions. When these judgment proof people own dogs, the risk of attack is borne completely by those around them. Requiring insurance coverage transfers the risk back to the person that is engaged in the risky activity, the dog-owner.
Now, I think it is fair to say that BSL is caused by emotion and fear. Fear that a specific breed is going to cause damage or harm and leave the victim paying the cost. By enacting BSL, or more specifically Breed Bans, the citizens of counties (or cities) are essentially saying that they are not willing to bear the burden of the risk of having these dogs in their borders. Requiring insurance transfers this monetary risk from the victim to the owner, the one that should bear the risk of engaging in the activity. While many will argue that you cannot put a price on a human life, or disfigurement caused by an especially gruesome attack, the incentives provided by insurance companies for responsible dog training and ownership should decrease both the frequency of attacks and the severity of the ones that do happen. Eventually voters may see that BSL is unnecessary and vote to end it, or fail to enact it in the first place.
This ends my two part discussion on the benefits of requiring dog owners to carry liability insurance on their pets. I think that the benefits would far outweigh the added costs of ownership, what do you think?
Don’t forget! Leave your suggestion for a post in the comments now through Thursday and Morgan will donate 1 lb. of food to Last Hope Rescue!