Disabled Homeowners with Service Dogs Denied Homeowners Insurance
Disabled homeowners with pit bulls as service dogs were unable to purchase homeowners policies from Travelers Insurance Company. Travelers has been accused by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon of disability discrimination as a result. While pit bulls have a reputation for being very aggressive and for engaging in dog fighting and attacks on humans, their owners often describe them as being very loyal and sweet-tempered.
Last year, officials from the nonprofit agency directed a phone sting in which “testers” pretending to be people with disabilities made telephone calls to Travelers to obtain quotes on home insurance policies. The testers stated that they were the owners of service dogs that were pit bulls. In every instance, the company’s phone representatives refused to provide them with a quote. In May 2015, the Fair Housing Council filed a federal lawsuit against Travelers in Oregon’s U.S. District Court, and named two of Traveler’s agents, Progressive Insurance Corp., and Purdy & Co., as co-defendants.
The lawsuit alleges that Traveler’s customer service representatives asked the testers if they owned any pets, to which he replied that he had a service dog for his disability, and that the dog was a pit bull. The representative then said that there was a breed restriction policy to which Travelers must adhere, and that Travelers would be unable to provide homeowners insurance because the breed of dog was a pit bull. When the testers asked if the pit bull policy could be waived or modified, the representative said “no.” The responses were the same even if the assistance animal had no history of dangerous behavior or bites.
The Fair Housing Commission of Oregon alleges that Travelers and its agents are engaging in discriminatory housing practices. By failing to provide homeowners insurance to disabled people because they have pit bulls as service dogs, Travelers is having an adverse effect on the ability of disabled individuals to become homeowners.
Travelers and its agents might say there are other insurance companies from which disabled people with pit bulls might obtain homeowners insurance. If those companies don’t have the same pit bull policy as Travelers, then disabled persons with pit bulls could still purchase insurance despite Traveler’s policy. However, if the policy is industry-wide, then that defense will not help Travelers.
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