Insurance companies denying coverage to some dog owners

"Dangerous dogs" problem animals

Pets are like part of the family for many owners. But when a dog bites a stranger, it can land you and your family in a lot of legal and financial trouble.

Local 2 Consumer Expert Amy Davis discovered insurance companies are actually denying coverage to some dog owners. And for one man, that meant giving up his dog.

Benjamin Sappington has a pit bull named Bella.

"She's a sweetheart. She's a very cuddly dog. She acts like a lap dog for how big she is," Sappington explained.

But the insurance industry thinks Bella is mean. That's why when Sappington decided to buy his house, he had a tough time finding homeowners insurance.

"You can't not have homeowner's insurance. You have to have it, and you have to have good coverage," he said.

In order to get that coverage, Sappington felt forced to find Bella a new home.

"As a normal guy, making a normal wage, living a normal life, to put up a fight and say, hey you know this is something you have to deal with. It's just part of life," he acknowledged.

Bella's breed headlines a list of so-called "dangerous dogs" that some insurance companies typically don't even consider covering in a homeowners insurance policy.

"The problem animals would be your Shepherds, Akitas, your Sharpays, your Dobermans, your Pit bulls obviously," according to insurance consultant Mitchel Kalmanson.

Kalmanson says the average legal settlement for a dog bite ranges between $45,000 and $300,000. That comes out of a dog owner's pocket if you don't have a policy that covers your pets.

Once a dog has bitten someone and a claim is filed, an insurance company may charge a higher premium, or not renew the insurance policy at all.

Kalmanson wants to see safeguards, like obedience training for dangerous dogs.

That's an idea Sappington likes a lot, even though it's too late for Bella, who's scheduled to go to her new home soon.

"I thought I was well informed, and then you find these things out, and sort of get blindsided by them. It's a shame, but you have to live with it," Sappington said.

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