Dogs and cats are on the radar for New York lawmakers

ALBANY — The dog days are upon state lawmakers, with a menu of pet-friendly legislation awaiting action at the statehouse.

One bill gaining traction in the final days of the 2021 session would prohibit insurance companies from refusing homeowner's insurance, or canceling the coverage, based on specific breeds of dogs residing at the property.

Surveys have found that Doberman pinschers, pit bulls and Rottweilers are frequently on so-called banned lists used by many insurance companies.

The American Kennel Club, the Humane Society and a host of other groups registered their opposition to discrimination against specific breeds of dogs by the insurance industry in a report issued last November.

The advocacy groups contend the insurance industry lacks evidence to support the contention the allegedly troublesome breeds are responsible for a significant portion of insurance claims.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, there were nearly 17,000 dog bite claims nationally last year. The average cost per claim: $50,245.

"The average cost per claim nationally has risen 162% from 2003 to 2020, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are trending upwards," the Institute said in a report last month.

Another proposed measure would require veterinarians to report animal cruelty to police, the district attorney, a peace officer or an animal control officer. The identity of veterinarians who make such reports would be kept private.

That bill was approved by the state Senate on June 3. It is now before the Assembly Codes Committee.

The week ahead is expected to decide the fate of legislation that would ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at retail pet shops.

Supporters say the bill is intended to cripple "the puppy mill pipeline" that critics of pet shops say is responsible for breeding the animals put on display in the stores.

"I think the majority of people understand this is the right thing to do," said Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation. She has been busy rallying support for the legislation, whose prime sponsors are Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan.

It awaits Assembly action after getting the overwhelming support of Senate members, with Senate GOP Leader Rob Ortt, R-Niagara County, and Sen. Peter Oberacker, R-Otsego County, among those voting in favor of it. Sen. Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, voted against it.

Finally, lawmakers have passed legislation that would require Family Court judges handling divorces or separation proceedings to consider the best interest of household pets in decisions relating to custody of the animals when couples split.

During the floor debate in the Assembly on May 20, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, clarified the scope of the legislation by stating it would not apply to horses, as they are not household pets.

The thrust of the measure is to ensure that pets are not treated as "household furniture" when assets are divided, Glick said.

The measure will now go to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhinews.com

 

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