At the moment it is not compulsory to have pet insurance in the UK. However, pet insurance is fairly affordable and can offer a great many benefits, the most obvious of which is vet fees. Clearly for the odd tummy upset, minor cut etc., pet insurance is not of any great benefit as the cost of such treatment usually comes in just above the insurance policy excess limit and therefore makes it unlikely that you would bother to claim on your policy.
However, if you experience a major issue with your dog e.g. a serious illness or accident, the cost of veterinary fees is likely to be incredibly high and this is where pet insurance really proves its worth.
In addition to veterinary cover it is well worth having public liability cover, which is perhaps something that is often overlooked by dog owners. Public liability is available on your pet insurance and also as stand-alone cover and will cover you in the event that someone else, a third party, sustains damage/loss/personal injury as a result of the actions of your beloved dog e.g. running out onto the road and causing a road traffic accident or knocking someone over at the playing fields etc.
Claims may be brought by the injured party under the Animals Act 1971 and/or for negligence, which means claimants potentially have two lines of attack. Indeed it appears that people are becoming more and more prepared to 'have a go' at claiming compensation for dog related injuries; there are some recent cases, some of which have gone all the way to court in which dog owners were found liable for the actions of their pets costing them potentially huge sums of money.
One case involved a dog running loose and 'out of control' knocking the claimant to the ground. The claimant fractured her leg in two places which required three operations. She settled the claim for £40,000. The dog owner had insurance cover which met the cost of settlement, otherwise the owner would have been forced to find the funds herself. It is when you read about such cases that you realise the value of public liability insurance; one never knows what is round the corner, particularly when one factors in the often unpredictability of our beloved pets.
We hear a lot about the 'compensation culture' which unnerves all of us. However some of the recent cases found in favour of the Defendant dog owners, in circumstances where the Judges were not willing to impose too stringent a duty of care on them, which seems to suggest that the 'compensation culture' is coming under control!