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Fall in UK pet insurance standards claim

ONE YEAR on from the launch of its Pet Insurance Charter, the pet insurer Sainsbury’s Bank claims that the quality of cover across the UK pet insurance sector has fallen.

The bank claims that just 6% of pet insurance policies meet its Pet Insurance Charter, (an outline of what it believes should be minimum levels of cover for cats and dogs). The corresponding figure in 2005 was 12%.

Sainsbury’s latest survey suggests that more than a third of pet insurance policies do not cover veterinary fees in excess of £3,500 and around half do not include treatment for long-term conditions.

David Pickett, pet insurance manager, Sainsbury’s Bank said: “Pet owners need to make sure that the pet insurance they choose will provide the cover they need in the event of their dog or cat needing treatment. We find it incredible that despite the fact that vet bills are on the rise due to improvements in treatment, even fewer policies this year are providing cover for fees in excess of £3,500. Many pet owners may therefore have to make up a financial shortfall on the cover provided by their policies.”

Veterinary surgeon and adviser to pet insurance providers, Neal King said: “According to Mintel 54% of pet owners have had to take their animal to the vet unexpectedly in the last two years. Given the fact that the costs of increasingly sophisticated veterinary treatment continue to escalate it is imperative that pet owners have adequate cover to pay their bills. If pet owners cannot afford to pay these rising costs or if those with insurance find it difficult because of their policy limitations their pet could be deprived of the best treatment available.”

Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance Charter is unlikely to appeal to its competitors. What is lacking is guidance - independent of the insurance sector - on minimum levels of cover. The small animal veterinary care sector is surely best placed to advise on such a base line.

*With thanks to Steve O’Malley, UK Pets