A vicious dog attack last month bolstered our belief that 2013 legislation prohibiting breed-specific legislation was wrongheaded. And a proposed law doubling down on the mistake by preventing insurers from discriminating against dangerous dogs would multiply the folly.
Shea Cavacini, the animal control officer for Griswold and the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, was mauled June 11 in her home by a pit bull named Otto, whom Cavacini had been fostering and who has since been euthanized. Thankfully, she is recovering from the attack, but she had to be airlifted for medical treatment and needed surgery during the course of her treatment.
The attack had all the hallmarks of a typical pit bull mauling: It was unprovoked, and Otto would not release his powerful grip from Cavacini’s arm once he bit. The latter is what separates the pit bull breeds from most others: they are genetically programmed for tenacity when they attack. And when they do attack, they clamp down on their victims and rip and tear, giving scant opportunity for self-defense. For young children, there is no such opportunity.
Anecdotal evidence, however, is not typically credible — a good preface for noting that we acknowledge the many loving, docile pit bulls all over the region who will never attack their owners or threaten their neighborhoods.
But we can’t ignore the danger inherent to the breeds, and neither can the insurance industry. Nonetheless, if some Connecticut legislators get their way, insurers will not be permitted to use breed types as underwriting factors for homeowners’ and tenants’ policies. We are inclined to trust insurers’ risk assessments because they are grounded in actuarial science, not anecdotes or emotional appeals.
In testimony against House Bill 5361, David Rose of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America said not every insurer imposes breed restrictions, but all should be free to use their “own reasoned judgment of risk factors and the related anticipated loss, including … the potential vicious propensities of a particular animal or breed of dog.”
Legislators have already wrongly foreclosed towns’ ability to restrict certain breeds — an approach that has been successful in hundreds of American cities. They should not perpetuate the fantasy that pit bulls don’t threaten public safety by restraining insurers, too.
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