Thursday 22 March 2018

It's a dog's life

If you are thinking of bringing a four-legged friend into your home, be sure to calculate the costs first, warns Ciaran Brennan

VALUABLE DOG: A standard poodle pictured at Crufts dog show recently. Thousands of dogs and their owners took part in the
world's largest dog show, Crufts. The majority of the dogs are insured
VALUABLE DOG: A standard poodle pictured at Crufts dog show recently. Thousands of dogs and their owners took part in the world's largest dog show, Crufts. The majority of the dogs are insured

Medical expenses, holidays, haircare, clothes, bedding -- they sound like the kinds of things you fork out on for the kids or yourself.

But think again -- if you buy a dog or a cat, you may find yourself dipping into your pocket for the very same things. Children aren't cheap, but neither are pets.

It may be handy enough to pick up a dog -- nip into the local pound or animal sanctuary and you can leave with a hound for next to nothing, bar the cost of his licence fee, vaccinations and a donation to the sanctuary.

It's only when you get Fido home that the costs really begin to mount.

The estimated annual costs of keeping a medium-sized dog is €1,500, one of the factors that the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has attributed to thousands of animals being abandoned and put down every year.

Even if you buy dog or cat food in one of the discount stores, pet costs are still going to run into hundreds of euros every year.

"And that's just the day-to- day running costs," says Joe Campbell, business development manager at Allianz, the only company in Ireland currently offering insurance for pets.

It's when an animal gets sick or injured that the costs of keeping an animal really hit home, he says.

Nobody likes to think of their pet being unwell, but just like us, they can suffer all sorts of illnesses and injuries, he says. One in three pets will need unexpected treatment this year, according to Mr Campbell. Although it's a cost every caring owner willingly pays, bills can run to hundreds and increasingly, thousands of euros.

"The advances in Irish veterinary medicine, and therefore the level of care pets can get in Ireland now, is dramatically higher than it was even seven years ago when we started doing the pet insurance," explains Mr Campbell.

"If something goes wrong with your pet, the level of care that a vet can offer you now is so far advanced.

"I know, for example, where you can have full hip replacements done or people can have full orthopedic surgery done on a dog's leg if a dog has been run over."

Allianz's Petplan insurance scheme is designed to cover those costs for dogs and cats.

The premiums for an average pedigree dog are €17.50 a month or €210 for the year.

For your cross-breed dog, it's €12.50 a month or €150 for the year. Cats are cheaper working out at €9.50 for a cross-breed cat which is €114 for the year. It is slightly higher for pedigree cats.

You can insure your pet from eight weeks to their eighth birthday.

"There is a policy excess on it of €60, so the owner is liable for the first €60 of the bill and then we pay out," explains Mr Campbell.

"The routine stuff like vaccinations, check-ups, neutering, spaying, worm treatment, none of that is treated under the policy." Nor are pre-existing medical conditions.

And of course, if picking up a cross-breed in the local pound is not your thing, you're looking at paying out a lot of money for a pedigree chum.

"If you're looking at a St Bernard, you're looking at around €2,000 for a pup," says Mr Campbell. "When people are buying dogs for that value they are more inclined to take better care of them."

And that includes insuring them if they stray, are stolen or die.

"If the pet dies from an illness or an injury or if it is stolen or strays from your property, you can claim back the value of the pet to a maximum of €750," he says.

The insurance also covers third party liability and legal costs up to €250,000.

Of course, there are a multitude of costs not covered by insurance. If you take a holiday and can't get somebody to look after your cat or dog, you'll have to put them in a cattery or kennels.

Kennels can cost up to €30 for one day, but many offer a sliding scale over a number of days or deals if you have more than one animal.

And then, of course, if you're a law abiding citizen there's the dog licence which costs €12.70.

For the less law abiding among us, there's a €30 on-the-spot fine for failing to have a dog licence and failure to pay on-the-spot fines can lead to prosecution in District Court with a maximum fine of €1904.61 and/or three months imprisonment.

Even the kids don't cost you that much.

And if you really want to spoil your pooch . . .

AN indication of how much Irish people love their dogs and how willing they are to part with their cash to treat them can be seen by the number of dog accessories and services on the market.

If your pooch is feeling the cold, you can get him a heated dog bed which will set you back around €80. If you're worried about your best friend sliding all over the back seat of your car when you're driving, you can always treat him to a doggie cradle if you have around €30 to spare.

Dog coats can start from around €7, depending on the size of the dog and how fashionable you want Fido to be.

Of course, then there's the makeover. A wash and blowdry, plus nails clipped starts at around €30 for a short-haired mutt.

You can always do the grooming yourself -- brush sets start at around €12 for a small dog and €20 for a large dog.

A lightweight trimmer for basic trimming needs will cost around €15 but be prepared to pay up to €60 for more professional mains-rechargeable clippers.

As a treat you can get choc drops for about €3.50 or knotted dog chews for around €8 upwards, but if you have any sense you'll simply drop into the local butcher and ask him for a bone.

And if you're not in the dog house already for spending that kind of money on the pooch, you can get a kennel from around €80, but costs escalate into the hundreds for larger dogs.

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