Owners of overweight pets face failed insurance claims

Published by Holly Black on 23 April 2018.
Last updated on 23 April 2018

Overweight dog

Pet owners are having their insurance claims rejected because their animals are overweight.

Halfway through National Pet Month, which runs 1 April to 7 May, owners are being urged to make sure their pets are covered by their insurance policy. 

Some 422 complaints were made to the Financial Ombudsman Service between October and December 2017 after insurers failed to pay out on claims relating to obese pets.

But the ombudsman upheld just 26% of the claims, ruling that insurers were justified in their decisions in three-quarters of cases. 

Overall, pet owners made 1,508 claims about pet insurers in 2016/17 – an increase of 38% from the year before. Some 30% of claims were upheld by the Ombudsman in 2016/17, compared to 24% the previous year. 

One dog owner made a complaint to the Ombudsman against Allianz Insurance after it refused his claim for medical bills relating to his pet’s cruciate ligament condition (one of the two 'crossing' ligaments within the knee).

When the owner took out the insurance policy in October 2016, he gave details of a visit to the vet a year earlier for stitches on the dog’s leg but did not declare any other medical issues. 

The owner made a claim on the policy after taking his dog to the vet with a limp in November 2016, at which point a cruciate ligament problem was diagnosed and the dog underwent surgery and a course of physiotherapy. 

Allianz rejected the claim after medical records revealed the dog was overweight, saying it would have excluded hip, leg and shoulder disorders on the policy if this had been declared. The owner said the ligament problem wasn’t related to the dog’s weight, so complained to the Ombudsman. 

An investigation by the ombudsman revealed that the vet had classed the dog as overweight but not obese. It said Allianz had not acted fairly a the owner had not misled the insurer about his dog’s weight because no specific questions were asked about it. 

The omdbudsman ruled that Allianz should pay £350 to the owner in compensation and reassess his claim without the obesity-related exclusions.

Some 24% of UK households have a dog, 17% have a cat and 8% have fish. It is estimated that around one in three dogs and one in four cats are overweight. Allianz says pets’ weight should be monitored and managed by owners. 

 

 

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