If your dog bites someone, you'll likely be held responsible. But does that mean you should insure yourself against the risk? The British government has announced plans to explore such a scheme. Good idea, says Michele Hanson in the Guardian: Third-party-insurance requirement might prevent "nasty" owners from cultivating dangerous dogs. But what about conscientious, loving dog-owners, asks Barb Shelly at the Kansas City Star. Why should they pay for those with "malicious intent?" A brief guide to Britain's bad-dog insurance brouhaha:
Why is this happening?
England and Wales are experiencing a dangerous dog epidemic. Hospitals are reporting a sharp rise in canine-attack victims and British Home Secretary Alan Johnson has conceded that Brits are "using dogs as a weapon."
But how would obligatory third-party insurance curb the problem?
It's being explored as one of several measures designed to make dog-owners more responsible. British police would be granted new powers to deal with out-of-control mutts and dogs would be outfitted with microchips so authorities can quickly identify their owners.
How much would insurance premiums cost?
Up to 500 pounds ($747) a year, predicts The Sun.
Can't Brits already insure their dogs?
Many pet owners routinely buy health insurance for their dogs, but insurers do not offer cover for violent acts against third parties.
What does the insurance industry make of it?
It's a terrible idea, the Association of British Insurers said to the BBC. Insurers will not want to sell insurance against the "very high risk" of a dog biting someone and dangerous dog owners are "unlikely" to pay expensive premiums on their pets.
What about animal welfare groups?
They don't like it either. The Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals told The Sun that the insurance scheme "risks targeting the law-abiding owner rather than those causing the problems."
Does anyone apart from the government think this is a good idea?
The British Postal Workers Union has apparently pledged its wholehearted support of the act.