PET owners are being urged to challenge insurance companies who refuse to pay up if their pet is ill or injured.
Richard Wallace was left with a £7,000 bill when his dog Buffy had a cancerous tumour in her mouth.
His insurers, Animal Friends, refused to pay to treat the rescue Samoyed dog who sadly died last year aged 12 as the small print in their policy said dental treatment wasn’t covered.
Richard said: “It’s disgusting what insurance firms will do to get out of paying. Our vet told them the treatment was for cancer, not a dental issue.
“But because the tumour was on her gum they insisted it was. Fortunately we were able to pay for her treatment but many people aren’t as fortunate and animals are suffering, even dying, while insurance companies make huge profits.
“We took our claim to the Ombudsman and they said that because the terms and conditions don’t cover illnesses in the mouth they wouldn’t need to pay.
“As a pet owner, you think insurers care about your pet in the same way as you do but it’s not the case.”
Research by money.co.uk found nearly four out of ten (37%) of pet insurance claims are rejected because the illness was pre-existing, the animal too old, or the treatment costs too high.
But out of those who did complain to the Financial Services Ombudsman (FOS), the body set up by Parliament to help unfairly treated customers, 30% were upheld.
Richard, 66, a retired IT trainer from Devon, was so incensed by how he was treated he set up a Facebook group, Animal Friends Not, to support others who had their claims rejected.
Now, thanks to his advice on how to challenge insurers, 50 per cent of people who come to him have their claims settled.
Out of the 8.5 million dogs in the UK, 30 per cent are insured and 16 per cent of the 7.5 million cat owners have a policy, according to latest figures from the Association of British Insurers.
In 2016, £1.8 million a day was paid out to treat pets. A typical policy costs £241 a year and the average claim was £757.
In the last year, there has been a 38% increase in the number of complaints about providers to the FOS, going from 1089 to 1508.
The advice to owners who feel they have been treated unfairly is to take their case to the Ombudsman.
Kevin Pratt from Moneysupermarket said: “They’ll look at the case in a sensible and humane way and if they believe it was reasonable for the client to expect the cost to be covered it may be resolved in their favour.”
Richard added: “I may not have been successful in appealing my case, but it is rewarding to be able to help others.”
A spokesperson for Animal Friends said: “We’re sorry that Mr Wallace is disappointed in the outcome of his claim, but we acted within the terms and conditions of the policy, which he agreed to when he took it out.
“We would like to reiterate at this point the importance of reading the terms and conditions of any product or service you buy to make sure it meets your needs.”