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UK Pet Insurance Dilemma: American XL Bully Ban Raises Questions

UK Pet Insurance Dilemma: American XL Bully Ban Raises Questions

Starting from the 1st of February 2024, it will be unlawful to possess an American XL Bully dog in the UK unless the owner has successfully applied for an exemption. For those fortunate enough to secure an exemption, the next challenge will be finding a pet insurance provider willing to cover these dogs.

The decision to ban American XL Bullies in England and Wales was made in response to a series of brutal attacks, some of which proved fatal. In light of this, Which? outlines the implications of the ban for owners of classified dangerous dogs and discusses insurance options.

What Does the Ban Mean for Dog Owners? The American XL Bully breed made its way to the UK around 2014 and now numbers in the thousands. However, despite constituting less than 1% of all owned dogs in the country, they are responsible for approximately 44% of attacks this year, according to campaign group Bully Watch.

The government’s response has been to include the American XL Bully in the list of prohibited breeds under the Dangerous Dogs Act, with specific dates for dog owners to keep in mind:

  • 31st December: The American XL Bully will be officially classified as a prohibited breed, making it illegal to breed, sell, advertise, exchange, gift, rehome, abandon, or allow it to stray in England and Wales. Owners will be required to keep these dogs on a lead and muzzle them in public.
  • 31st January: Owners who wish to retain their American XL Bullies must register them on the index of exempted dogs by this date. Courts will grant exemptions if they determine that the dogs do not pose a threat to the public and their owners demonstrate responsibility. Owners must also secure third-party insurance and adhere to a set of strict rules, including neutering, microchipping, and ensuring secure containment to prevent escapes.
  • 1st February: Owning an American XL Bully without exemption will be a criminal offense, punishable with a criminal record and an unlimited fine. Police will have the authority to seize such dogs unless they are on the exemption list.

It is important to note that these rules do not apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland, though the devolved governments may choose to implement similar bans in the future.

Can You Insure a Banned Breed?
The American XL Bully is not the only banned breed; others include Pit Bull Terriers, the Japanese Tosa, the Dogo Argentino, and the Fila Brasileiro, all listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Under the exemption scheme, nearly 3,500 banned dogs are legally residing with their owners, as reported by the BBC. However, those seeking insurance coverage for their pets’ medical expenses may face difficulties.

Most mainstream comparison websites do not provide quotes for dangerous dogs, and the majority of insurers are unwilling to cover them. Therefore, owners of banned breeds will need to seek out specialist insurance providers, who may offer policies at considerably higher premiums due to the perceived higher risk.

Understanding Third-Party Liability Insurance Owners of banned breeds must legally obtain third-party liability cover under the exemption rules. This insurance will cover costs in case someone files a claim against you for injuries or damages caused by your dog, provided your dog does not have a history of aggression.

While many insurers offer this coverage as a standard or add-on option, owning a dangerous dog may necessitate a separate policy. Typically, these policies provide coverage of up to £1 million, which may seem substantial. However, in the event of a lawsuit involving loss of earnings, expenses can escalate, making the additional financial security valuable.

Consider Utilising an Insurance Broker Since mainstream comparison sites do not cater to owners of dangerous dogs, finding a specialist pet insurer can be challenging. Nonetheless, an insurance broker can assist in locating a suitable policy tailored to your needs.

Insurance brokers are professional intermediaries who connect customers with insurance providers and work independently to identify the best pet insurance options. While brokers usually charge a commission, which is deducted from your premium, the potential cost savings when it comes to treating serious conditions can make their fees worthwhile in the long run.

To find a regulated and authorised insurance broker, you can use the British Insurance Brokers’ Association search engine or contact them at 0370 950 1790.

Challenges Insuring Other Dog Breeds It’s not only banned breeds that pose challenges for insurance coverage. Insurers may also hesitate to cover dogs with hereditary medical conditions, as well as those used for breeding, guarding, racing, or hunting.

Size can be a determining factor, with very large dogs like Great Danes and Alaskan Malamutes being difficult to insure due to the higher cost of medical care. Additionally, some insurers base their decisions on personality traits, with breeds like German Shepherds and Saint Bernards, known for loyalty, potentially perceived as higher risks for insurance purposes. Surprisingly, even smaller dogs such as Pugs and French Bulldogs can be challenging to insure due to their susceptibility to certain medical conditions.

Considering Self-Insurance In cases where insurance coverage for your breed is unavailable, you may have no option but to cover vet fees from your own resources. As interest rates rise, you might consider opening an easy-access or regular savings account to set aside funds for this purpose. For guidance on finding the best savings account with competitive rates and helpful advice, refer to our comprehensive guide.

News Source and Image Credit: Which?, Editor: Matthew Jenkins.

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