March Madness: Duke To Win It All

The word is out. Duke will emerge as the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament. How do we know? Your pets told us.

In an analysis that has nothing to do with March Madness rankings, a team's won-loss record or soothsaying sportscasters, a pet insurance company looked at its database of nearly half a million pets it covers nationwide and discovered that "Duke" is by far the most favorite name chosen by owners.

So, if you're searching for something to boost your basketball mojo or for fresh angles when filling out your brackets, you might want to consider Veterinary Pet Insurance's (VPI) findings. Duke, the No. 2 seed in the tourney's Midwest region, shares its moniker with 1,336 pets insured by VPI, according to spokesperson Adam Fell.

"George," which is close enough to be connected with Georgetown (sitting in the No. 2 seeding in the South region), came in second, with 567 owners calling their dogs, cats, hamsters, birds, snakes or other animals by the name.

Here's the full VPI list, with names either loosely reflecting the name of the participating college or university or its team name:

Duke; 1,336 -- Duke

George; 567 -- Georgetown

Tiger; 490 -- Memphis, Missouri, Pacific

Louis; 222 -- Louisville, St. Louis

Buck; 134 -- Bucknell

Cowboy; 101 -- Oklahoma State

Rebel; 96 -- UNLV, Ole Miss

Gator; 73 -- Florida

Bruin; 58 -- Belmont, UCLA

Grizzly; 52 -- Montana

Lobo; 45 -- New Mexico

Buckeye; 41 -- Ohio State

Badger; 41- - Wisconsin

Jay; 34 - - Creighton

Cal; 23 -- California

Carolina; 23 -- North Carolina, North Carolina State

Spartan; 22 -- Michigan State

Panther; 18 -- Pittsburgh

Irish; 17 -- Notre Dame

Hoosier; 15 -- Indiana

Crimson; 11 -- Harvard

Hurricane; 10 -- Miami

Kansas; 10 -- Kansas State, Kansas

Aggie; 44 -- New Mexico State, North Carolina A&T

Okie; 10 -- Oklahoma

"There are also three pets named 'Izzo',' bringing to mind Tom Izzo, Michigan State's head coach, one named 'Pitino' (Louisville head coach Rick Pitino), 10 named 'Bucket,' eight named 'Hoops,' five named 'Rebound' and two named 'Swish,'" says Fell.

VPI, based in Brea, Calif., is one of the largest pet health insurers, but it's not alone. Other major providers include Healthy Paws, PetPlan, 24PetWatch, Embrace and Trupanion, among others.

Pooch persecution? Pit bulls and insurance

But it's not all fun and games when it comes to pets - especially certain breeds of dogs -- and insurance.

Tennessee's House of Representatives is considering a bill that would require owners of vicious dogs to carry a minimum insurance policy of "$25,000 for liability against any injuries inflicted by the dog."

The bill targets any animal with a previous history of causing injury or death to a person or other animal without being provoked. House bill 621 also says "any animal that belongs to a breed commonly known as a pit bull dog shall be considered vicious."

Some home insurers are also concerned, as dog-bite liability claims in 2011 comprised more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims. This cost insurers about $479 million in 2011, up 16 percent from the previous year, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). The average cost of a dog-bite insurance claim was $29,396 in 2011, according to III. (See: " Man's best friend, your insurers worst enemy.")

Farmers Insurance, for instance, recently began eliminating home insurance liability coverage for dog-bite claims involving pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf-dog hybrids. Farmers isn't going as far as canceling policies, but it does want clients who own these breeds to sign exclusion coverage waivers. Policies won't be renewed without the waivers. (See: " Farmers unleashes dog-breed ban.")

Similar to Farmers, other home insurers won't include certain breeds in policies and say customers must sign a waiver that makes them responsible for any lawsuits or health care costs connected to their dog's actions.

Other insurers will ask you questions about your dog's history and will consider coverage on a case-by-case basis. State Farm appears to be dog-friendly and is one example. Though State Farm paid more than $109 million as a result of nearly 3,800 dog-bite claims in 2011, the company does not refuse insurance based on the breed of dog a customer owns. (See: " The $30,000 dog: How a biting pooch costs you.")


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