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joy, some people are taken

aback to be told they should

either pay monthly sizeable

premiums for first-class

insurance cover, or put aside a

fund of at least £1,000 in case

the unthinkable happens and

their dog has a serious accident

or becomes inexplicably ill.

To be on the safe side, that

£1,000 will need to be several

thousand should the dog need

a referral to a big clinic. There

may be cheaper options if all

that is needed is specialist

knowledge or skill, rather than

high-tech equipment, but

distance or availability can

also be factors.

Having experienced the joy

and relief of seeing a desperately

ill dog returned to her former

waggy self in the space of 36

hours, I know that I would do

anything to access that expertise

if I needed it again. My dogs are

not insured. Some people have

mortgaged their houses to save

the life of a beloved dog. But

the whole edifice depends on

those 75-80 per cent being

paid for by insurance and there

have been mutterings about

abuse of the system, whether

by overcharging, unnecessary

procedures or downright fraud.

Insurance giant Royal Sun

Alliance, which underwrites

many pet insurance policies,

including John Lewis, More Th<n

and Tesco, recently announced

that except in emergencies,

policy holders would have to

check with them before

arranging a referral, and if they

did not agree to use a “preferred”

specialist or clinic, there would

be “financial implications”.

The RCVS responded by

saying that insurance

companies could not take over

the professional responsibility

of the vet for their patients’

care as, “Every vet who works

in clinical practice knows that

an important part of the job is

consulting with owners about

treatment options and that

includes diagnostic options.”

However, it seems that some

insurance companies will have

to be consulted, too – and they

will be limiting those options.

But not all. Simon Wheeler,

Managing Director of Agria,

commented, “Pet insurance

is a discretionary purchase,

and insurers and vets alike

have a responsibility to

ensure it remains affordable

as treatments become ever

more sophisticated. Agria, the

provider of Kennel Club Pet

Insurance, does not restrict

an owner’s choice of vet, as

this is such a special

relationship. Equally, our

current range of lifetime

policies do not then constrain

the vet’s freedom to refer as

necessary. In fact, they even

contribute towards travel and

accommodation costs where

the veterinary specialist is

not local.”

As my dog numbers

dwindle to one or two, I shall

be looking again at insurance

policies for the undoubted

peace of mind they can bring.

But however much they offer

in terms of sums available for

treatment, I shall be reading

the small print very carefully

to see who gets to decide how

that money is spent.

n

Willows Referral Service is the longest-established referral

practice in the UK.

www.willows.uk.net

Dick White Referral: under one roof – one of the largest

collections of veterinary specialists anywhere in Europe.

www.dickwhitereferrals.com

North Downs Specialist Referrals: a 10,000-square-foot purpose-

built specialist referral hospital in the south-east.

www.ndsr.co.uk

Photo © North Downs Specialist Referrals

Photo ©Willows Referral Service