I have been reading a lot about pet insurance because we have been considering adopting a new dog. We were looking for a mature dog, not a puppy, but….
We visited the national, well-known Petfinder.com site to look for an available dog in PA. Even though I had done dog rescue for four years, there are many more dog adoption agencies in E. PA than I had ever heard about. We found a lovely place in Last Chance Ranch (LCR) in Quakertown. Although they began as a horse rescue, they also shelter ponies, emus, roosters, cats and dogs. Last week, we chose a pup named Blackwell for a companion for our 12-year-old doxy, who is none too thrilled, but the match is working out.
Petfinder.com partners with PetFirst Health Care for pet insurance for adopters, which costs $5 the first month and $14.95/mo. thereafter. To sign up, go to Petfirst.The drop-down menu of participating rescues is extensive. In fact, the PetFirst representative said all major SPCAs and adoption leagues are included, and all adoptable pets listed on Petfinder (over 353,000 pets listed from 13,557 adoption groups) are eligible.
I had looked into basic pet insurance for our old doxy along with a “mature one-year-old” dog and could only find a basic plan for $66/month. We simply could not afford that.
The PetFirst insurance (information was included in our adoption packet from LCR) for “accident and illness” protection sounded great for a new, as-yet-unknown pet. In fact, they advertise that, after $5 for the first month, the coverage would automatically renew after 30 days for $14.95/month, for dogs and cats “of all ages.”
You must sign up within 20 days of the adoption to get the first month for $5.
We got “Blackwell” (now named “Howie Mandel”) on Friday, September 17, and I called to sign up for coverage on Tuesday, the 21st. The representative told me the policy would go into effect immediately at midnight. Also, for $5 for the first month and $14.95 per month thereafter, we could also insure our 12-year-old dachshund, PJ!! (His “accident protection” was effective at midnight; his “illness protection” will become effective in 2 weeks.)
The rep, “Amanda,” e-mailed me confirmation of our agreement within 10 minutes. I can sign in to check up on our dogs’ specific coverage and claims and track all submitted vet bills. Although they have several online endorsements for their policies, it sounds too good to be true. But the LCR rescue group we adopted from said many of their adopters have signed up with the plan and praised it for quick reimbursements.
How the plan works: For our adopted dog, Howie, AND for our elderly doxy, all coverage went into effect at midnight, as promised. I printed out the 15-page “activation packet” for each dog within 10 minutes of the telephone agreement. (Our Master Card notices popped in notifying us that two separate phone orders were pending for $5 each, as Amanda told me they would.) The rep suggested that I print out several copies of page 4, the “claim form” for my vet. She also suggested keeping a blank copy on file and one in each car the pet might ride in.
On September 23, after having Howie for 6 days, he went to the vet for “bacterial cystitis,” which our vet says is very common for an over-stressed, newly-adopted dog. The bill was $87.71 and I just submitted my first claim today. I can track everything online. (We received payment November 1; I had omitted some important medical information, and the representative had to call our vet for verification so the check was delayed.)
Terms of coverage: $1,000 for accident/illness coverage, allowing $500 per incident; and 100% reimbursement after the $50 deductible. You can use any veterinarian and should receive reimbursements within two weeks.
The policy covers diagnostic tests, hospitalization, lab fees, surgeries, and x-rays.
Anyone who adopts a pet with an unknown medical history will especially appreciate this insurance. (It’s also a great partnership for shelters; I passed this information onto our local rescue I was associated with for 4 years so they can take advantage of this for their elderly animals in a no-kill environment.)
Our adopted dog was neutered and micro-chipped, given all of the core vaccines along with the K-9 influenza and rabies vaccines, bordetella, a flea/tick treatment, and he was started on heartworm protection medication. We did not expect to have a medical problem this soon. After paying a substantial adoption fee, and buying a new leash, collar, toys, bed, bowls, etc., we certainly will appreciate reimbursement for this almost-to-be-expected “illness” with our new pup.
Our doxy developed a secondary skin infection, and he also needed to be put on antibiotics. That bill on October 4 was for $80.95 so I just made another submission. According to my online tracker, both claims are being processed. As of October 27, the tracker says my reimbursement is in the mail. (That claim was rejected because it was filed the day before the effective date for the elderly, unadopted dog on the list. That was clearly marked on his coverage packet, which I didn’t remember.)
[Final personal note November 2, 2010. Our elderly doxy has just been diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of cancer. He was given four months to live as of his vet visit on October 29. This insurance will certainly come in handy for us.]
These special rates only apply as incentives for adopters. In fact, the $14.95 per pet can apply by adopting one pet and adding two more on as a family policy.
This offers great motivation for people to adopt animals with, basically, unknown backgrounds, and it acts as a great, affordable buffer for the almost-to-be expected vet bills that come with a new pet.
The rep said I could also cancel the policy anytime by going online and asking to cancel. I’m counting on my online tracker, which says the claims are in process, along with the testimonies of other adopters (online and in a flyer included by our adoption Rescue) and the strong recommendation of the Last Chance Ranch. (Our latest claim on October 29 is now being processed. What timing. This should help us choose the best options for our old dog, without worry about unaffordable expenses.)
If you adopt, or are thinking about it, check out the online site at Petfirst on the Petfinder site where you can activate your pet’s insurance. Pre-register your pet or sign up and get coverage by midnight the same day. Read their terms to see if the simplified plan is adequate for you or you can upgrade. You can call PetFirst for more information before committing at 1-866-937-PETS (7387).
Sources: Self as adopter who signed up with PetFirst
Information from our dog adoption contracts from PetFirst.
Flyer from Last Chance Ranch rescue.
For FAQs, contact information, and an adoption insurance summary, see Pet First Health Care