Dog in our London Victoria animal hospital with a bandaged leg

FAQs on important changes to Blue Cross vet care

From 4 May 2021, we’ll be changing how some people pay for veterinary treatment at our animal hospitals.

What is going to change?

From 4 May 2021, you can access free of charge or reduced cost veterinary treatment from our animal hospitals if you:

  • receive certain means-tested benefits
  • live within one of our catchment areas
  • pay a registration fee of £10 every year for each registered pet

Free of charge vet care

Your pet will continue to be eligible for free of charge veterinary treatment in most cases (we will continue to ask for a voluntary donation) if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Universal credit where there has not been a reduction in payment due to work or other income such as savings
  • Income support
  • Jobseeker’s allowance (income-based)
  • Employment and support allowance (income-related)
  • Pension credit

Unfortunately, we do not accept the standard state pension at this time as it is awarded to all residents of qualifying age; it’s not means-tested.

Important: If you’re already registered at one of our animal hospitals and receive one of the benefits above, please renew your registration today. This will ensure that you do not have to provide proof of your benefits the next time you visit us.

Reduced cost vet care

You will be asked to pay for your pet’s reduced cost treatment if you receive any of the following benefits:

  • Universal credit where there has been a reduction in payment due to work or other income such as savings 
  • Working tax credit
  • Child tax credit
  • Housing benefit with no other benefit
  • Council tax reduction with no other benefit (not the 25 per cent single person discount)

Registering your pet

All clients will need to pay a £10 registration fee per pet each year. This covers the administration costs of your registration.

You can register using our online form or register when you visit one of our animal hospitals. Please contact your nearest animal hospital before visiting us.

Registering more than two pets

From 4 May 2021, you can register more than two pets for vet care. If you are eligible for free of charge vet care from this date, you will only receive free of charge treatment for two pets. Any other pets will be eligible for our reduced cost vet care.

Do I need to do anything?

If you are eligible for free of charge vet care, please renew as an existing client using our animal hospital registration form. This will mean that from 4 May 2021 you will still be able to access free of charge vet care. 

You will need:

  • the names of the pets you are registering for free of charge vet care (up to two pets)
  • proof of benefits (a scan, photo or screenshot of your benefit award letter or universal credit account)
  • to pay a £10 registration fee per pet

Please note: If you are eligible for reduced cost vet care from 4 May 2021, you do not need to renew now. You can renew your registration when your current year’s registration expires.

Renew your registration today

What if I cannot afford to renew my registration today?

If you are still eligible for free of charge vet treatment for your pet after 4 May but you are unable to pay the £10 registration fee per pet, then you can delay this until you can or until your pet needs treatment.

If your pet needs treatment urgently, please contact your nearest animal hospital so that your pet does not suffer.

Out of hours vet care

If your pet needs treatment outside of our normal opening hours, an additional out of hours fee of £50 will also apply for all pet owners.

Out of hours charges will apply if you arrive:

  • Monday to Friday from 7.00pm to 9.00am
  • Saturday, Sunday and on bank holidays from 5.00pm to 9.00am

Only urgent cases are seen out of hours. 

If I have to pay for reduced cost treatment, how much will it cost?

As a charity, our costs will be lower than if you were to visit a private vet. Treatment for pets can vary hugely which means the cost can also vary depending on what veterinary care is needed.

Before a treatment decision is made, our teams will always explain the options available and provide an estimate of the cost. As a guide, you can expect treatments from Blue Cross to cost at least 30 per cent less than a private vet practice. In many cases the discount will be much more.

Example costs for reduced cost vet care:

  • Primary consultation – £25
  • Annual vaccination for a dog (booster) – £30
  • Dog castration – free of charge

If you have an insurance policy for your pet, we would be happy to process an insurance claim on your behalf. Any reimbursements that your insurance provider might make to you will be at their discretion.

Nothing will change until 4 May 2021. 

If you need to see a vet now, contact your nearest animal hospital. Please be patient as we have a large number of calls, but your call will be answered.

Due to coronavirus restrictions, we may assess your pet over the phone or by video call and will only ask you to come to the hospital if your pet needs emergency treatment. If your pet has a non-urgent issue, we will do our best to help over the phone. We may offer you a written prescription so you can buy medicine for your pet from a pharmacy, online pharmacy or other vet practice.

We would encourage you to get a benefit check to make sure that you are not missing out on any benefits that you might be entitled to. Your local Citizens Advise Bureau or Age UK may be able to help you with this. It is not uncommon that people miss out on welfare support simply because they are unaware of their entitlement.

If you are no longer eligible for free of charge vet treatment and are concerned about the costs of vet treatment in the future, we have some more information below.

If you are not eligible for free treatment from 4 May 2021 you will need to pay the full amount at our hospital receptions at the point of treatment. For some urgent cases where our vets consider it to be suitable, we may be able to offer a payment plan to allow you to spread the costs over up to 12 direct debits. This will not be suitable for all cases and we reserve the right not to offer this option in all circumstances.

We accept all major credit and debit cards.

Yes. You will need to pay for your pet’s treatment first. We’ll then submit a claim form to your insurance company on your behalf so that they can reimburse you. All claims are subject to your policy’s terms and conditions.

Neutering is currently free at our animal hospitals and we ask for a voluntary donation if possible. If you choose to get your pet neutered to avoid unplanned breeding, this treatment will still be free of charge after 4 May 2021 to anyone eligible for free of charge or reduced cost vet care.

We do not support the planned breeding of any pet. If you are thinking of breeding your pet or your pet is at high risk of mating, we will withdraw access to our veterinary services.

If you are not eligible for free of charge vet treatment following these changes and your pet is being treated for a chronic (long-term) condition, we will continue to supply the medication currently provided to manage this condition until May 2022. We will continue to ask you for a voluntary donation towards their treatment. You will need to pay for re-checks with a vet or for any further tests that are required.

Any other treatment that is needed will be charged for. If a new treatment plan is recommended by us, you will need to pay for this new course of medication or treatment.

There may be times when your pet needs treatment urgently but you’re unable to provide proof of your qualifying benefit straight away. If this happens, you’ll need to provide proof within 24 hours. Otherwise, we will issue you with a full invoice. 

To avoid this, you can renew today.

Our animal hospitals provide a wide range of the most common vet treatments and services, helping tens of thousands of pets every year. The variety of treatments we provide will not change and will be the same for all our clients. 

However, as a charity we need to make sure we are using our limited funds in the best way. We are unable to offer every procedure that a private or specialist vet practice would. Where your pet needs this, we will talk to you about referring your pet to another practice or hospital.

Blue Cross has been helping sick, injured and homeless pets since 1897. Unfortunately, the cost of veterinary care increases every year. This year it will cost us more than last year to provide the same services to pet owners. At the same time our income has substantially reduced.

So that we do not have to start turning pets away, we need to introduce charges for some pet owners to help cover our costs. These will still be lower than a private veterinary practice and will ensure that we are able to keep our doors open and continue to provide a valuable and high-quality veterinary service.

We have done a lot of work looking at how we can provide care to all the pets we currently help while knowing our costs are rising and our income is falling. Asking some pet owners to pay towards the cost of veterinary care, based on the type of benefit they receive, is the fairest and only way we can continue to treat all the pets that need us.

To identify which benefits qualify for our services, we worked with an independent company who are experts in the welfare system. Our decision on who receives free of charge treatment was based on which benefits are the only source of income for that individual. 

Although we understand that this is an extremely difficult time for many of our clients, our research tells us that pet owners who receive certain benefits will be able to pay for reduced cost veterinary treatment. 

If we don't make a change, we would not be able to offer the high-quality service that pets rely on. Charging some pet owners will allow us to continue helping pets in need for many more years.

Yes – we want to carry on treating all our eligible clients and registered pets. We will not stop providing veterinary treatment to any pet that currently receives treatment from us. However, moving forward only some clients will receive vet care from us free of charge, but we will continue asking for a donation. Others will need to pay a reduced cost fee for their pets’ treatment.

No. We will continue to treat dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, hamsters, rats, mice, gerbils, degus and chinchillas.

Many people think our animal hospitals are government-funded or funded by the local authority through council tax. This isn’t true. Blue Cross is a charity and we don’t get any money from the government for our animal hospitals. All our money comes from donations from the public. 

We are grateful for any donation you can make to your pet’s treatment and any donation you give us. It means we can keep helping pets. We would not exist without public support.

The more support we get, the more pets we can help. We know times are really difficult for many of our clients at the moment and giving us an extra donation may not be possible. You can help us in lots of ways including:

  • Tell your friends and family about us and encouraging them to support us
  • Share your story with us. Stories of real pets we’ve helped encourage people to donate to us. If you’re happy for us to use your pet’s story in our communications and fundraising appeals, email [email protected] or find us on social media
  • Ask for donations of goods or money for Blue Cross instead of a birthday present. It’s easy to set this up on Facebook
  • Host a bake sale, quiz night or other fundraising event

Find more ideas

Who should I contact if I have other questions?

To find out more about these changes you can speak to one of our team:

— Page last updated 16/03/2023