Little-known Michigan insurance bulletin could positively impact dog owners and those with service or emotional support animals

The Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services DIFS Bulletin 2019-20-INS clarifies Michigan’s Essential Insurance Act. Insurers may not refuse to insure any eligible person on the basis of pet ownership, unless that person has a related claims history (and only if the claim arose in the three years preceding renewal).

“Most people qualify as ‘eligible persons’ when they buy insurance for their residence, whether they rent or own their homes,” says Attorney Charlotte McCray, of the Brighton-based McCray Law Office, PLLC, and a member of Attorneys for Animals.

 “If their family includes a dog, the insurer cannot refuse to insure them based on dog ownership, unless the person has filed a related claim within the last three years. This means that insurance companies cannot deny insurance simply because the applicant owns a dog or a particular breed of dog.”

The bulletin does permit insurers to charge additional premiums based on dog breed or species of animal, but only when actuarial data indicates an associated risk with the animal.

Notably, the bulletin prohibits surcharges for assistance animals who are covered under the federal Fair Housing Act, including both service and emotional support animals.

“This bulletin clarifies laws that help to make housing accessible to pets and their families. Policies with breed restrictions have become more common, so it is especially helpful to protect dogs facing the greatest threats of breed discrimination and homelessness, such as pit bulls and huskies” McCray notes.

“When Charlotte approached us about the bulletin, we knew it was important to get this information out to the public,” according to Bee Friedlander, AFA’s board president. “After all, dogs are members of the family. We contacted several animal advocates, including humane society directors, and confirmed that even these professionals are unaware of it. They provided anecdotal evidence of people who may have been improperly denied coverage based on the breed of their canine family member. One said, ‘I had this experience myself. I was outright rejected by the insurance company when I disclosed that I had a German Shepherd Dog.’

“As an organization of legal professionals and animal advocates, Attorneys for Animals, Inc. wants to make sure that the many Michiganders who share their homes with dogs know about this bulletin which, although originally published in 2003, has remained largely under the radar, ” Friedlander said.


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