SALLY SORTS IT: Sainsbury’s refused £950 emergency vet expenses

We have three dogs, all of which were insured with Animal Friends.

When the renewal for Leia, our miniature dachshund, came up recently, we couldn’t afford the leap in the premiums, so we looked for a new policy.

On December 6, I selected Sainsbury’s Bank, with a policy start date of January 1, 2023, the date her Animal Friends policy ended.

Denied: Sainsbury’s pet insurance initially refused to cover the vet bill when a customer’s miniature dachshund became ill

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All seemed straightforward, until January 10, when she started being sick and vomiting blood.

I called Sainsbury’s 24/7 vet adviser who said to take her to the emergency vet. On the way, Leia started bleeding from her hindquarters.

To cut a long story short, I paid £950 for her treatment, for what we thought to be poisoning of some kind. I wasn’t worried about the bills because of the insurance.

But our claim was denied, due to exclusions applied in the first 14 days of the policy. Please help as we just can’t afford to pay this large sum of money.

T. H., Broadstairs, Kent.

Sally Hamilton replies: You believed you were being a responsible owner by taking out a policy to cover vets’ bills in the event of Leia having an accident or falling ill.

But when disaster struck, soon after signing up, you felt as sick as your poor dog when Sainsbury’s — whose pet plans are underwritten by Pinnacle Insurance — growled at your claim because the incident occurred during the policy’s 14-day waiting period.

Many insurers apply a waiting period at the onset of a policy. This is to discourage owners from taking out cover only when a pet falls ill.

However, there were two aspects of this case that I thought might encourage Sainsbury’s to rethink its decision. The policy’s terms and conditions say there are exceptions to the waiting period rule.

There is no time limit if the pet suffers an accident and, if an incident involves poisoning, then it’s three days.

Your vet could not decide precisely what had caused Leia’s sickness but surely, I thought, it could not be ruled out she had eaten something poisonous, and by accident?

You couldn’t be sure what Leia had been up to in the hours before she became ill because this period coincided with another emergency.

Your husband had cut his finger badly that day on a circular saw and you both spent the evening at hospital while your son kept guard at home.

For all you knew, Leia had eaten something she shouldn’t have.

Fortunately, Leia made it through the following night. She had to spend the rest of the next day at the surgery but, by the evening, she was well enough to come home.

I contacted Sainsbury’s Bank on your behalf and requested it re-examine your claim. A few days later it came back with good news.

A Sainsbury’s Bank spokesman says: ‘We were sorry to hear about Leia’s illness.

‘While our policy states that claims for illness cannot be made until after 14 days, we’ve received additional details about this case and have decided to pay the claim in full.’

An important additional factor that influenced this result was that you essentially had no gap in cover between when you moved from your previous insurer Animal Friends to Sainsbury’s, helped by the fact Leia’s sickness did not appear to be related to a pre-existing condition.

You were mightily relieved and told me that without my input you would have still been nursing a £950 bill.

Straight to the point 

I recently renewed my BT broadband account.

I since found out I am eligible for a Wi-Fi discount as my wife is disabled, but I have been told I would have to pay £300 to transfer the account into her name as I am three days over the cooling-off period.

K.H., via email.

BT apologises and has moved the account into your wife’s name without charge.

Your monthly bill has been reduced from £37 to £15 a month with all the same conditions.


In September, my wife and I went on a P&O cruise for our golden wedding anniversary. 

We had booked a trip to Guernsey but could not go as we both caught Covid. P&O assured us that we would receive a refund but we are still waiting.

J.A., Bromsgrove.

P&O has refunded the £130 excursion fee.


Last year my son bought two monitors from Currys’ eBay site for £300 but they both broke soon after delivery. 

He returned the items but is still waiting for a refund.

A.P., via email.

Currys apologises for the delay and has sent you a full refund and £100 as a gesture of goodwill, which you have accepted.

Your experience underlines the importance of setting up a new policy to start as soon as another ends. Some insurers, such as ManyPets (formerly Bought By Many) automatically waive the waiting period in situations like yours, where cover is continuous.

This is a sensible approach as otherwise owners would be discouraged from switching to better insurance deals.

However, always look out for pitfalls when moving pet insurer, especially if a furry friend has pre-existing health conditions. Give policy terms and conditions a thorough sniff.

Even then, limits on cover, and treatment exclusions in certain policies, can come as an expensive shock.

Reader S.A., from the West Midlands, is still reeling from the news that the family’s pet Kangal puppy, Reign, which joined the family in September 2022, developed a limp just before Christmas and now requires potentially £12,000 of medical procedures to replace two hips after being diagnosed with hip dysplasia, a condition where the joints don’t develop properly.

Her owner was devastated to read in her policy from PDSA, that prosthetics (artificial joints) are not covered. Even if they were, the maximum cover on her lifetime policy is just £3,500.

More than £500 has already been used up on X-rays and diagnosis bills. She told me the family cannot afford to meet these costs and are devastated that euthanasia might be the unthinkable option. 

Instead, they are trying to raise funds, with the children organising sponsored events and a GoFundMe page. So far this has raised £500, along with £500 from other sources.

Feeling her desperation, I contacted PDSA Pet Insurance on her behalf, asking if it could help find a lower-cost arrangement.

The insurer re-examined her case and, a few days later, came back with some slightly better news. It was sorry that the terms and conditions weren’t clearer but said it would pay for Reign’s treatment, including a contribution towards her new hips.

But this will be limited to the remaining cover on the policy of about £2,500, which still leaves a significant shortfall.

A PDSA Pet Insurance spokesman says: ‘We are very sorry to hear about Reign’s hip condition.

‘We know how worrying it can be for owners when their pet becomes ill or requires veterinary treatment. Hip replacements are covered by our policies, subject to standard terms and conditions and individual policy cover limits.’

A proportion of premiums the insurer receives goes to the PDSA charity, which helps owners on low incomes who struggle with veterinary costs.

But to qualify for free treatments and medications (for one pet only), owners must live in the postcode catchment area of one of its pet hospitals and be on means-tested housing benefit, council tax support or universal credit with housing element.

Lower-cost vet fees are offered to those on other benefits. Find out more at Charity Blue Cross offers a similar service at Many vets also offer payment plans to help spread bills.

Reign’s owner is now shopping around to see if she can find a lower fee for the procedure but wants to wait until May, when Reign turns one, before proceeding. This gives time for Reign to develop, plus gives her owner a chance to raise more funds and save her life. She will be given pain relief in the meantime.

The loss of a pet is felt keenly by all owners and though money doesn’t remove the pain, a death benefit is something many insurers offer, covering either the whole price paid for the animal, or in some cases a percentage.

An age limit might apply, of say, eight years for a dog. However, one reader wrote to me of his grievance when his insurer Animal Friends paid only £500 for his £1,800 Chihuahua puppy Alfie, who tragically died after he was attacked by two Huskies last year.

He calculated he should have been paid £1,350 because his policy stated a death benefit of 75 pc of the price paid if the pet dies before the age of three. He complained to the insurer but heard nothing.

I contacted Animal Friends on his behalf, and it quickly agreed to pay the extra £850 owed.

A spokesman says: ‘We pride ourselves on our customer service and we’re sorry that we missed the original email from the customer querying the settlement paid.’ 

Owners should keep any receipts for the purchase of a pet, even if it was a donation made to a rescue charity.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email [email protected] — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given. 

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