ASPCA Enters Competitive Pet Insurance Market

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) introduced a pet insurance program through Petsmarketing Insurance in October 2006.

The ASPCA, which was founded in 1866, explained its entry into the increasingly competitive arena as an extension of its mission. “Our stated mission is to provide the effective means of prevention of cruelty to animals, and pet insurance is a great way of doing that by giving pet parents a financial umbrella so that they never have to choose between their financial wellbeing and the health of their pets,” says Shonali Burke, spokesperson. “With pet insurance, innocent animals are not deprived of appropriate treatment simply because their guardians cannot afford it.”

Trends magazine will print a guide to pet insurance in the March/April issue


The addition of Petsmarketing brings the number of insurance competitors to about 10, said Brian Iannessa, a Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) spokesperson. VPI was the first United States company to offer pet insurance in 1980, and signed its first policy holder – a dog named Lassie – in 1982. Today VPI has 400,000 active policies, Iannessa said.

When advising clients about pet insurance, questions about coverage, price caps on veterinary services provided, pre-existing conditions and breed-specific restrictions should be explored, said professionals.

“Pet owners ask their veterinarians what they recommend, which is why we keep strong ties with that community,” Iannessa explained.

Although both the ASPCA and VPI offer insurance for services provided by licensed veterinarians in the United States, some pet insurance companies act like discount clubs and restrict usage to a select number of veterinarians.

“You should be able to use the insurance in all states with any licensed veterinarian,” Iannessa said.

Referring to pet insurance as a risk management tool, Iannessa believes the service helps veterinary professionals and pet owners because it defrays costs for catastrophic injury and illness.

Eighty-five percent of VPI’s clients opt for superior medical plans, which cost $48.58 per month for a 10-year-old dog in Colorado and include wellness services, Iannessa said. In comparison, an ASPCA premier plan for a dog the same age would cost between $38.13 and $67.63 per month, Burke said.

Private practitioners will not be affected by the ASPCA insurance, or other competitive products because it is utilized after services are provided by licensed veterinarians and paid invoices are submitted by pet owners. ASPCA reimburses up to 80 percent of the “allowable charges” after $100 annual deductibles are met. It will not cover surgical procedures that the ASPCA opposes, such as ear cropping and tail docking, Burke added.

The yearly deductible for the ASPCA insurance is different than competitive companies that offer $50 per incident deductibles, Burke said. Petsmarketing Insurance, a division of the Hartville Group, also pays out based on treatment instead of diagnosis, she added.

ASPCA professionals expect pet insurance to become increasingly popular. Burke cited industry statistics that estimate an increase in veterinary costs of six percent annually and that pet owners will spend $9 billion on veterinary costs.

Current industry statistics show that only two percent of pet owners in the United States have pet insurance compared to more than 20 percent in the United Kingdom. A 2003 Packaged Facts study shows that pet insurance was introduced in Europe in the 1930s and that about 40 percent (at that time) of pet owners in Sweden had pet insurance.

U.S. numbers are expected to rise as awareness increases among pet owners, Burke said and added, “More and more attention is being paid to pet insurance as a viable way for caring pet parents to extend the same protection to their pets as they would to other members of their family.”

*** Editors Note: AAHA does not endorse the terms pet parent and pet guardian.