By VICTORIA HEUER
November 18, 2009
Despite, or perhaps because of, the slowed economy, more Americans are buying insurance plans for their pets as a way of mitigating the financial stress of caring for their pets over the long-term. Amidst this growth in sales of pet insurance plans, more U.S. companies have taken notice of the importance their employees place on the family pet and are offering pet health insurance as part of their employee benefits packages.
Of the approximately 74 million dogs and 88 million cats kept as pets in the U.S., only an estimated 1 to 3 percent are covered by health insurance. But as more owners have had to give their pets up to shelters due to financial hardship, others have taken steps to thwart the possibility of having to make the difficult decision between having their pets cared for, or having to give them up or have them put down for lack of ability to pay for care during times of illness. Even for such basic veterinary services such as immunizations and sterilization, more pet owners are expressing a desire to allay the expense by purchasing health plans.
With more dedicated pet insurance companies joining the market, and pet brand companies such as ASPCA, AKC, and PurinaCare offering pet health insurance, pet owners have found a larger market to choose from when considering pet insurance. This has also made it easier for companies like Disney, Home Depot, Sprint, Google, and AOL to take advantage of this market growth by offering policies to interested employees.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), American pet owners spent an annual amount of $200 per dog, and $81 per cat in 2007, and according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), American pet owners paid an estimated $11 billion in veterinary charges last year.
If this seems like an exorbitant amount to spend on animals, consider this: according to AVMA statistics, nearly half of all pet owners think of their pets as members of the family, and it appears that more people are willing to spend the money to ensure their pets' well-being, even during a time of financial strain.
Recent studies on the physical, mental, and emotional benefits pets have on the lives of their human companions buttress this increased expenditure, as pet owners have become more aware of the true contribution their pets make to their lives.