Bills passed in New York & Nevada will force all insurees to subsidize pit bull mayhem with their premiums
ALBANY, BROOKLYN––Maybe three-term New York state governor Andrew Mark Cuomo read the New York Post on June 23, 2021.
Maybe he noticed that a wheelchair-bound man suffering from cerebral palsy had been fatally mauled the previous evening by two pit bulls in the trailer home he shared with a couple named Cindy and Angel in The Hole, politely described as “a small, low-lying neighborhood” where Brooklyn meets Queens.
“His ears were ‘ripped off,’ and he had suffered lacerations and puncture wounds that appeared to be from the dogs, according to police sources and neighbor Stephen Newell,” New York Post reporters Lorena Mongelli, Tina Moore and Amanda Woods described.
“I don’t know why they would do that”
“Cops tranquilized the dogs and took them,” Newell told them.
A third pit bull on the premises “was locked in a back room and didn’t appear to be involved,” Mongelli, Moore, and Woods mentioned.
Said Newell, “These were their family dogs. They had them for years. This is all strange. I don’t know why they would do that.”
Neither the victim’s name nor the full names of Cindy and Angel were disclosed, but Newell mentioned the victim in a Facebook posting: “RIP Gumpy.”
The victim was the fourth American killed by a pit bull in June 2021, and the fifteenth U.S. pit bull fatality of the year, among 20 victims of fatal dog attacks in total.
Circumstantial indications are that the victim may have been Ronald R. Borchert, 63.
Did Cuomo make the connection?
Maybe Cuomo made the mental connection between the fatal attack and S-4254/A-4075, the New York Senate and Assembly versions of a bill passed by both houses of the New York legislature on June 10, 2021. The bill reportedly now awaits only his signature to become law.
The bill, as officially summarized, “Prohibits insurers from refusing to issue or renew, cancel, or charge or impose an increased premium for certain policies based solely on the breed of dog owned.”
In other words, while insurance companies could still charge higher premiums for covering dogs who have already disfigured or even killed someone, in New York––as in several other states––insurers would not be allowed to charge higher premiums for keeping pit bulls, Rottweilers, and other dogs of breeds known to inflict more frequent and more severe damage in attacks.
Insurance companies win either way
Since fatal and disfiguring attacks by pit bulls in particular are usually––say the owners––the first known violent incidents involving those pit bulls, as in the June 22, 2021 fatality in The Hole, S-4254/A-4075 in effect would force all homeowners to subsidize insuring the dog breed type––just 5% to 6% of all dogs––who inflict approximately two-thirds of all dog attack damage.
This includes 60% of the dog attack fatalities and 75% of the disfiguring bites over the past 39 years.
Insurance companies themselves do not really have a dog in the fight: if all insurers have to cover pit bulls, Rottweilers, et al, then none can gain a competitive advantage over the others by not insuring high-risk dogs, and thereby becoming able to charge lower premiums for coverage.
But all dogs may be excluded from coverage
Advocates for New York S-4254/A-4075 have argued that such legislation will lead to more pit bulls being insured, meaning fewer cases in which the victims of pit bulls, Rottweilers, et al are unable to recover damages from the owners.
But legislation requiring all insurers to either cover all dog breed types on an equal basis, or cover none, may have the perverse opposite effect of encouraging more insurance companies to adopt exclusion clauses, exempting dog bites from any coverage under conventional homeowners and renters policies.
Cuomo, 63, may not have given much attention yet to S-4254/A-4075.
Cuomo is, after all, facing a criminal investigation led by New York state attorney general Leticia James of sexual harassment charges brought against him by eleven women since February 2021. Cuomo also faces a parallel investigation of the same charges by the state Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Cuomo is, however, expected to sign S-4254/A-4075.
Where the bodies were buried
If Cuomo read about the fatal pit bull attack in The Hole, and read the name Stephen Newell, he might have recalled, as a former New York City district attorney, that The Hole “is most notorious as a dumping ground for bodies in Mafia mob wars for over 50 years,” summarized New York City blogger Brian Dube in 2009.
“There are stories of 200 bodies being found,” Dube said. “According to the New York Times, a lot on Ruby Street between Blake and Dumont Avenues,” across the street from the June 22, 2021 pit bull mauling death, “was a suspected Gambino family burial ground. Alphonse Indelicato, Phillip Giaccone, and Dominick Trinchera, of the Bonnano family mob, were murdered and buried in a vacant lot in The Hole.”
Wikipedia reduces the number of Mafia murder victims believed to have been buried in The Hole to just six.
A Stephen Newell, identified by Ed Scarpo of the online periodical Cosa Nostra News in 2015 as “a low-level mob associate, born and bred in Bushwick, Brooklyn,” was involved with some of the gangsters whose victims were found in The Hole.
Insurance compared to extortion
Elements of the Mafia, as any number of mobster-themed books and movies have explained, like to think of themselves as being essentially in the insurance business, except that their version of it is legally described as extortion.
Paying them, Mafioso claim, protects their clients from bad things happening to them. Bad things happen to those who do not pay––especially in neighborhoods like The Hole, which until recently was not even connected to the New York City sewer system. Residents flushed their toilets into cesspools.
Bills like S-4254/A-4075 are in effect extortion. They say, in effect, that if owners of dogs other than pit bulls, Rottweilers, and other high-risk breeds refuse to subsidize the maulers, more people will be mauled by uninsured dogs––which has been happening anyway, year after year throughout several decades of dangerous dog breed proliferation.
But the pit bull advocacy Mafia long since took over the leadership of the American SPCA, the Best Friends Animal Society, the Humane Society of the U.S., and the many state and regional humane societies who have thrown their membership weight behind S-4254/A-4075, as well as other state legislation written from the same template.
Nevada passed similar bill to New York
Summarized Jim Sams for the insurance industry Claims Journal on June 21, 2021, “The Nevada state legislature this month passed a law that will stop insurers from excluding or charging higher premiums for homeowners who own specific dog breeds, such as pit bulls, Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers,” almost identical to the New York bill, “while a bill passed in Illinois was watered down to require only that insurers collect and report data about dog-related injury claims to the state Insurance Department.
“The American Property and Casualty Insurance Association opposed the Nevada legislation,” Sams wrote, “pointing out that dog bites cost the industry $853.7 million in 2020, an average of $50,245 per claim.”
However, Sams continued, “The [Nevada] legislature responded by passing Senate Bill 103 by Sen. Melanie Scheible, D-Las Vegas, with a 42-32 vote in the Assembly and a 21-18 vote in the Senate. Nevada governor Steve Sisolak signed the measure into law on June 2, 2021.
“In Illinois,” Sams recounted, “SB 1672 by Senator Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, was amended four times and now only requires insurers to track dog bite claim data for two years, including the dog’s breed, gender and whether it was spayed or neutered. The bill passed both chambers of the legislature and is awaiting action by Governor J.B. Pritzker.”
Paradoxically, Sams added, State Farm dog bite prevention spokesperson Heather Paul, whom he mentioned “owns an American Staffordshire terrier and a pit bull terrier,” meaning two pit bulls, “said insurers have good reason to pay close attention to known risks. Last year, State Farm,” the only major insurance group which has always insured dogs without breed restrictions, “paid $157 million for 3,184 dog-related injury claims.
“She said 65% of homeowners have a dog in their household,” Sams wrote, “and it would be ‘problematic’ for insurers if lawmakers start legislating how they manage risks.”
For that reason, where they can, at least 13 other major insurance groups charge higher premiums for insuring dog breeds of significantly higher-than-average actuarial risk, meaning greater risk that a dog attack will result in a payout.