Officials Mull Mandatory Injury Insurance For Dog Owners In Middletown

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s not the bark, but the bite that has Middletown thinking of charting new territory in the realm of requiring insurance coverage.

The small city in central Orange County is mulling over a proposal to require owners of dogs larger than 25 pounds to have insurance coverage in case the canine causes injury.

The city of 30,000 residents has logged more than a hundred serious dog bites in the past three years, most from unleashed large breed dogs like Pit Bulls.

Middletown firefighter Bob Moser told CBS 2’s Lou Young was attacked in January while conducting a code inspection.

“The dog came out of nowhere, bit through my jacket and apparently caught me with one of his front teeth and it ripped and that’s where it pulled away,” he said pointing at the healing 5-inch scar on his forearm. “The skin was actually gone.”

The city’s Public Works Director, Jacob Tawil, says his people have had similar experiences at the rate of amount one a month this year. “They use our guys as food to munch on,” he joked. “Something has to be done.”

Mayor Joseph DeStafano’s solution is to require insurance for all renters in the city who have dogs larger than 25 pounds. He says he got the weight limit by studying the New York City Housing Authority’s ban on large dogs in public housing.

Rather than ban the large animals he says requiring liability insurance will force owners to accept financial responsibility for the pets they choose to own.

“Home owners are exempt,” he explained, “because most homeowner policies cover pet incidents. But even in those cases if a homeowner’s dog is involved in an incident, we’re going to require the extra insurance before renewing the animal’s license.”

Mayor DeStefano has been on a crusade to crack down on so-called “slumlords and absentee landlords,” and considers the dog liability proposal another weapon to use in that fight. “They (the landlords) will be responsible for their tenant getting the insurance and if not they must begin eviction proceedings.”

The Middletown Landlords Association is on record opposing the idea and tenant Dee Dee Baggatta, a dog owner, agrees. She thinks the city is penalizing responsible pet owners along with the irresponsible.

“My dogs don’t run loose,” she said. “They’re on the porch, and we walk ‘em with chains.”

With two dogs she would have to find roughly $600 a year to buy $100,000 worth of liability.

The proposed ordinance is on a public hearing agenda scheduled in two weeks. “We know it’s controversial,” the mayor said, “but we’re prepared to go ahead.”

Please leave a comment below…

  • BigSister

    How about targeting irresponsible owners? That’s the way you prevent dog bites, not by making everyone with a dog that’s a weight someone arbitrarily chose purchase insurance.

    Yet another ridiculous and impossible to enforce law that solves nothing.

    • DogGoneIt

      Not true. You need to look at it from the victims point of view. There are careless dog owners with vicious dogs…even on a leash…pulling the owner while walking down the street. The owner is walking down the street feeling like the king while kids and old people are trying to get out of the way. “oh..he does not bite”…sure…try making your point to this family of a 3 year old girl whose pony tail was ripped out her head and huge bite marks on her back while walking in the park with her family! Insurance should pay for the girls hospital bills, trama and then some more. Criminal charges should be enforced on the owner!! What insurance would do is make owners think twice about securing their dogs…and avoid having a 3 year old defenseless girl being mauled by a 100 pound dog!!

    • DogGoneIt

      Four dogs attacked little Chance Walker Jr. on January 30. The child was rushed to Cook Children’s Medical Center with serious injuries and ultimately had to undergo surgery to reattach an ear.

    • DogGoneIt

      An arrest warrant has been issued for the man whose dog attacked a 6-year-old Kingsport girl, inflicting injuries which required plastic surgery and more than 100 stitches.

      The incident occurred last Sunday evening at 208 Adrian Drive. Nebraska Nuckels was playing in the yard with her father, Mark Nuckels, when a 2-year-old Lab mix entered their property.

      “I turned around, and (the dog) had her pinned on the ground, by the face, shaking her head,” Mark told the Times-News last week.

      “When I scooped her up, the horror I saw was unimaginable,” he added.

  • Laura

    I have horses and I carry insurance just to cover my own butt in case (god forbid) they get out of the pasture, get on the road, someone hits them with a car and gets injured. All responsible PET owners should carry in insurance to cover themselves. End of story!! If you don’t you risk losing your house and everything else you own in a law suit. Seems like total common sense to me.

  • Lisa

    All dog owners, no matter the size or breed, should have insurance. Most rental insurances will cover your pets just as a homeowners policy will

  • Bullett

    All of those who voted “no” are putting themselves at risk of major law suits.

  • cabinridgejo

    It’s Not the Breed, it’s the Owners and they should be held responsible for thier pets. Unfortunately this law is going to effect our shelter. People who can’t afford this insurance, will be dumping their dogs, to avoid the fines.

  • NYCsewer

    if you shoot a few pit bulls the owners will keep them on a leash

    • dogstar

      Why not shoot a few owners? They are the ones at fault, not the dogs. This is a stupid law anyway. Dogs under 25 lbs. can and do bite and cause injury. Bottom line is owners should be paying fines for unleashed dogs of any size running loose and they should be paying the doctor bills if their dog bites someone. But instead EVERYONE, including those who do the right thing and keep their dogs in line, is going to have to pay because a few people are inconsiderate idiots.

      • DogGoneIt

        At least half of “large dog” owners are on welfare anyways. How in the world are they going to pay doctor bills if their dog attacks an elder person or small child? They can’t. Can’t sue them…they have nothing worth taking. So they get to keep the dog? No criminal charges? No jail time. But the victim is left maimed and scared for life. In some cases killed! Insurance is needed to compensate the victim and keep irresponsible dog owners in check. One moldy bread spoils the loaf…

        • BigSister

          Could you please cite where you got the “statistic” that “half of large dog owners are on welfare”?

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