Pitbull face (Hany Mamdouh via Shutterstock) Credit: Hany Mamdouh via Shutterstock

Should the owner of a pitbull or Rottweiler be denied a renters insurance policy or have to pay more in premiums for a homeowners policy? Such practices would be prohibited in Connecticut under a bill before the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee. 

The proposal comes from Rep. Tammy Nuccio, a Tolland Republican and insurance analyst who also cares for a rescued Rottweiler among other dogs. In an interview Friday, Nuccio said the legislation was intended to prevent insurance carriers from classifying entire breeds of dogs as aggressive and therefore more expensive or risky to insure.

“You can have somebody who gets bit by a pitbull. That doesn’t mean all pitbulls are bad. It means that that pitbull could be reacting to something, it could have been raised in an aggressive manner, it could have been abused,” Nuccio said. “You can’t take any classification of anything and say ‘All of them are this.’ That’s what insurance companies were doing.”

Nuccio, who is also a member of the National Council of Insurance Legislators, said insurance companies have been unable to actuarially demonstrate that dogs often thought of as more dangerous were in fact more likely to hurt someone.

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During NCOIL’s annual meeting last year, Nuccio and likeminded lawmakers from around the country succeeded in passing model legislation, designed for state legislatures to emulate, which establishes that insurers cannot deny, decline to renew, or cancel a policy based solely on the breed of a dog. The model bill also prohibits increasing rates or premiums on the basis of a dog breed. 

Nuccio said Friday she hoped Connecticut would adopt the policy this year. 

However, supporters will need to convince their colleagues in the state legislature. On Friday, Rep. Kerry Wood, a Rocky Hill Democrat who co-chairs the insurance panel, said she was sympathetic but skeptical of the bill.

“I need to be convinced somehow that the stories of pitbulls biting kids or even killing kids is not something that is breed-specific to certain types of dogs,” Wood said. “But listen, I’m a dog lover. I think pets are wonderful companions to have and I want people to be able to have the appropriate insurance coverage even if they have a dog that may be a breed that has done some harmful things. I am very open to learning about this.”

Wood, who is also a member of the National Council of Insurance Legislators, said representatives of the insurance industry were at the table for the crafting of the model language. She said the bipartisan language was worth taking a look at and expected to hold a public hearing on the matter later this session. 

“Whenever you limit an insurer’s ability to assess risk, you may see an increase in insurance premiums,” Eric George, president of the Insurance Association of Connecticut, said.

Nuccio said she believed she had enough support on the insurance panel to vote the bill out of committee. 

“I’m hopeful it gets heard on the floor [of the House]. They know I’m pretty passionate about getting this fixed,” she said. “These are services where if you have paid for insurance, you should be able to have these dogs. I don’t like people telling others what they can or can’t have in their own home.”

On Friday, Rep. David Michel, a Stamford Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Animal Advocacy Caucus, said he supported the concept. 

“What makes the difference is the owner and not the breed of the dog,” Michel said.