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?

Our veterinary care is currently free, and we ask for a voluntary contribution if possible. From 4 May 2021, we will be asking some pet owners to pay a discounted fee towards the cost of their pets’ treatment (pay as you go). For others, vet care will still be free in most cases, and we will continue to ask for a contribution.

Why is this changing?

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 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 veterinary treatment. 

If we didn’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 on a free, contribution-basis. Others will need to pay a reduced fee for their pets’ treatment.

Nothing will change until 4 May 2021. 

If you need to see a vet between now and then, please contact your Blue Cross animal hospital. 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.

From 4 May 2021, all our clients will have to pay an annual registration fee of £10 for each pet registered. If your pet needs treatment outside of our normal opening hours an additional out of hours fee of £50 will also apply. 

You will continue to get free veterinary treatment for your pet 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 is not means-tested.

If you are eligible for free veterinary treatment, we will write to you again in April with instructions on how you can re-register to maintain access to our free service. We will continue to ask for a voluntary contribution when you visit us.

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

  • Universal Credit (if not maximum award)
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit with no other benefit
  • Council Tax Reduction with no other benefit

If you are still eligible for free 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 though, please do contact your nearest animal hospital so that your pet does not suffer.

We would also encourage you to get a benefits 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 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, or 
  • spread the cost over a maximum of 12 direct debit instalments where it is suitable

We accept all major credit and debit cards.

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 costs can also vary depending on what veterinary care is needed. However, 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 on average 30 per cent less than a private vet practice. 

Yes, you can pay using your pet insurance subject to your policy’s terms and conditions.

Neutering is currently free at our animal hospitals and we ask for a voluntary contribution 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.

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 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 contribution 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.

Yes – however, when your pet needs treatment we will deduct this from the first consultation fee.

Eligible clients can currently register up to two pets for treatment. From 4 May 2021, you will be able to register more than two pets. However, if you are eligible for free vet care you will only receive free treatment for two pets. You will be able to register additional pets for our pay as you go service. 

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 re-register when your annual registration expires. We will contact you in April about how to re-register.

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.

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 contribution you can make to your pets’ 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 08/02/2021