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Commissioner Lara and Assembly Member Kamlager team up to address overpopulation and health care of ‘pandemic pets’

News: 2021 Press Release

For Release: February 11, 2021
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Commissioner Lara and Assembly Member Kamlager team up to address overpopulation and health care of ‘pandemic pets’

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With a dramatic increase in pet adoptions and purchases during the COVID-19 pandemic, Assembly Member Sydney Kamlager introduced Assembly Bill 553 sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to expand pet insurance protections so these “pandemic pets” do not add to the already staggering issue of animal overpopulation and pet homelessness. AB 553 would require pet insurance companies to fully cover the cost of spaying and neutering and any costs associated with these essential services.

“Spaying and neutering your domestic pets is important to prevent unnecessary abandonment, pain and suffering,” said Assemblymember Kamlager. “It is estimated that over 100,000 pets are euthanized per year in California. Responsible pet owners and pet insurance companies can help save communities from spending millions of dollars that goes toward destroying a living animal.”

“Spaying and neutering is a basic health issue for pets, and with the surge of ‘pandemic pets’, insurance companies must help address the overpopulation crisis by covering the cost of this one-time surgery,” said Commissioner Lara. “California is leading the way to make pet insurance a more viable option for pet owners. This bill is the first step in the direction of better care and coverage for our pets.”

Despite the numerous documented health benefits of spaying and neutering, currently pet insurers still consider spaying and neutering an elective surgery and typically do not cover the costs. Spaying and neutering can prevent cancers and infections in pets, among other health problems that pet insurance companies may cover. Yet consumers who wish to have spay and neuter costs covered are often required to purchase an additional wellness plan for an added cost.

AB 553 aligns with California’s many existing laws that serve to protect pets and encourage spaying and neutering, which are essential in order to reduce the pet homelessness crisis. In fact, shelters are required to spay and neuter their animals, cities and counties are allowed to mandate spaying and neutering, and there are several statewide and local programs which subsidize the associated costs of spaying and neutering. The 2019 Best Friends Animal Society reports that 711,000 cats and dogs entered California shelters and 100,000 were euthanized. Despite the increased interest in pet adoptions during the pandemic, California still faces pet overpopulation which ultimately leads to needless euthanasia.

“Many Californians want to have their pets spayed or neutered, but don’t think it’s possible when they find out how much it costs,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, San Francisco SPCA President. “The San Francisco SPCA applauds Commissioner Lara’s and Assembly Member Kamlager’s efforts to reduce financial barriers for this important care decision, and to encourage pet insurance companies to join organizations like ours in preventing unwanted breeding.”

This bill would also require pet insurance companies to send cancellation notices to policyholders at least 20 days prior to the cancellation date if premium payment has not yet been received, bringing it in line with other types of insurance notifications.

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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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