Nationwide is not on your Dog’s Side


This isn’t a story about a dog or an insurance company, though  it does include the two. This story is about breed discrimination and how we’ve taken it way too far.

Just like many million other Americans, Melina Efthimiadis found herself applying for homeowners insurance. An umbrella policy to be exact. As part of the initial Nationwide application, the family was asked to list the number of dogs owned, and their breed. This probably sounds familiar to those of you who have ever gone through this process.

She likes big mutts and she cannot lie

The couple (again, like millions of Americans) have dogs that are mixes (aka Mutts- I like them and I cannot lie). They own a Shih Tzu/Yorkie mix, a hound, and a hound/lab mix. All well behaving pooches it appears.

So when the Efthimiadis’ were told that they were denied for the extra insurance they had applied for, AND  that Nationwide was cancelling their current policy, they were shocked.

What happened you ask? Insurance representatives of Nationwide went on Efthimiadis’ Facebook page and found pictures of her vicious brood.

Nationwide

Dear Nationwide- I didn’t know that was legal…

When the company came across the picture of Zeus (lab/hound mix) they determined the dog must be at least part Rottweiler based on his appearance and therefore dangerous. When Melina responded that Zeus is a mix but reiterated his largest known ancestry was lab and hound, Nationwide told her she would need a letter of confirmation from a veterinarian.

You’re going to need that in writing from a vet? Well this is about to get awkward…

Well perfect, because Melina is one. One could argue she is best suited to determine the actual breed of her dogs. How embarrassing. Eventually Nationwide gave in and agreed to insure the couple, but only after said fiasco. Melina has decided to go with another insurer. Who could blame her?

Where do we draw the line?

I fully understand it is the job of a company to do a thorough risk assessment- how else would they stay in business? But Facebook stalking and discriminating against a dog based on looks alone without any further knowledge is just tasteless.
Even if the dog was  considered to be a “high risk breed”, perhaps a behavioral assessment would be more appropriate before a denial is offered. After all, those of us that own and love dogs know that personalities differ night and day from dog to dog- even within the same breed.

This story should concern you greatly for one big reason- the rules that govern our society have not kept up with technology. Sure we could just do the whole “well if you don’t want it public, then don’t post it on FB” thing. But what’s to stop companies from sitting outside your house in a dark, Scooby Doo looking van?

Doggy DNA tests are becoming more and more commonplace, and if we don’t put our foot down, it is going to dictate  where some of you can live, whether you can get insurance, and whether or not Buster is allowed into the park. As the testing becomes cheaper and more accessible, various entities will demand to see the results. And if Buster is 1/10th Pitbull, Rottweiler or god forbid more, he will be cast out of society. Think I’m kidding? Look what they just tried to pull in Montreal.
And what about all of the homeless dogs in the shelter? You’d be hard pressed to find any of them who aren’t part ____ (insert name of “prohibited” breed). Who will adopt them if people know they will be prohibited from certain apartments, communities, parks and other public places?

A few bad dogs and a lot of publicity have ruined it for the millions who are stellar canine citizens. And by a few bad dogs, I mean the bad people who have tried to breed these dogs to be used in dog fighting rings and as bait.

We must stop the madness.

At the end of the day, the big libertarian in me believes it’s fine and dandy that a private company decides who it chooses to do business with- in this instance who it decides to insure or not insure. This is America after all. But the big dog lover in me is sure going to take my damn business elsewhere.

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