Horse is put down without insurer’s consent

Pet Insurance

Craig contacted us after his insurer rejected his claim when his horse was put down.

What happened

Craig’s horse, Amber, was suffering from a degenerative joint disease in one of her legs, and she became lame. Craig asked his insurer whether his policy would cover him to put her down. An adviser went through Craigs policy with him. She explained that if he made a successful claim, the policy would pay a lump sum benefit on his horses death. The adviser also went through the relevant criteria relating to euthanasia. After the conversation, she sent Craig a letter and a claim form.

Ambers pain increased, and Craig decided that she was suffering too much, so he asked his vet to put the horse down. Craig then made a claim on his insurance policy, but it was turned down. His insurer said that the euthanasia didn’t meet the conditions set out in guidelines given by BEVA. They also pointed out that for a euthanasia claim to be valid, the policy said they would need to give written consent before the horse was put down.

Craig complained that the BEVA guidelines weren’t mentioned in his policy terms and conditions. He said that his policy did allow him to make a valid claim without written permission if the horse was put down on humane grounds. He also said that he’d been given written consent from the insurer when they’d written to him enclosing the claim form. When his insurer rejected Craigs complaint, he referred the complaint to us.

What we said

We explained to Craig that BEVA produce guidelines to help with insurance claims. The guidelines say it’s up to the attending vet to decide whether to advise the owner if the horse should be put down – regardless of whether or not the horse is insured. They also say that for a horse to be put down, it must be shown that ‘no other options of treatment are available to that horse, at that time.’

When we reviewed Craigs policy documents, we found that they didn’t mention the BEVA guidelines. However, the policy did make it clear that putting down the horse must be ‘immediately necessary’ and that it would only be covered if ‘no other treatment was available’.

We looked at the evidence supplied by Craig's vet, as well as the insurers vet. They agreed that Amber's condition was possibly treatable, and that she could have been given anti-inflammatories and retired to a paddock. So she didn’t fit the guidelines or the policy terms for a claim.

We found that the insurer's letter to Craig had said that they would ‘need to receive a fully completed claim form, before we can consider the validity of your claim.’ So we didn’t consider this to be written consent.

Although we sympathised with Craig for the loss of his horse, we thought that the decision to put Amber down didn’t meet the conditions set out in his policy. We didn’t uphold the complaint.