For pets and their parents
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Pethealth, as part of our focus on best practices of the animal care and products sector.
Pethealth Inc. first launched in the pet insurance industry in 1998, to provide financial services to the veterinary and companion animal communities. Since then, the company has grown both organically and through strategic acquisitions and is now an international leader in animal management software, lost pet recovery services and pet health insurance. Since its inception, Pethealth has built a solid foundation based on a commitment to assist animal shelters and rescues while also providing peace of mind and security to pet parents.
It was in 2003 that the company expanded its business beyond insurance to include lost pet recovery services under its North American brand 24PetWatch. For these services, Pethealth is a leading reseller of RFID microchip technology and, as part of its lost pet recovery services in North America, it has about 14.5 million microchipped pets registered in the 24PetWatch Lost Pet Recovery Database, and reunites over 3000 lost pets to their pet parents each month.
Pethealth introduced its cloud-based shelter management application, PetPoint, in 2005 to animal shelters across North America. With exclusive data management and reporting capabilities, PetPoint assists in increasing operational efficiency, managing workflow, and reducing costs. This software is now used by over 1,300 animal shelters. Today, Pethealth is the leading provider of management software to animal welfare organizations across North America.
In 2009, Pethealth further expanded its offerings with the release and launch of Petango through Petango.com. This was the first online search tool for pet adoptions exclusively featuring a live feed of adoptable shelter pets. Integrated with PetPoint, adoptable pet profiles are automatically populated on Petango.com when the animal data is entered into PetPoint. With nearly two million unique visitors to the site per month, the time between an animal’s arrival in a shelter and its adoption is reduced which, in turn, minimizes shelter operating costs.
In 2014, Pethealth was acquired by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, a financial service holding company headquartered in Toronto, Canada, which, through its subsidiaries, is engaged in property and casualty insurance, reinsurance and investment management. Since then, the company has remained focused on long-term profitable growth in its existing lines of business through both organic growth and acquisitions. This included the acquisitions of the and PC Financial Pet Health Insurance portfolios to grow the insurance business in Canada as well as Chameleon Inc., North America’s second largest shelter software provider, to further Pethealth’s commitment in this area.
Today, Pethealth’s 420 employees across Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., are focused on building out the business for the future, guided by their mission to “Bring vitality to lives furry and otherwise.”
Recently, Business View Magazine spoke with Michelle Cole, Chief Marketing & Sales Officer for Pethealth about the history and diverse services of Pethealth Inc.
Cole notes that the pet health insurance industry itself is rather young – only a couple of decades old in North America – and Pethealth has been around since the beginning. “Today, in North America, Pethealth is a leading provider of animal management software that is used by animal shelters, municipal shelters and rescues,” she reports. “We’re also a leading provider of RFID microchip identification, pet recovery services, and, of course, health insurance for dogs and cats.”
Following many years of acquisition and expansion of service offerings, the company now has its eye on the future. “Recent estimates peg the number of household dogs and cats in the United States and Canada at 200 million. And that number is expected to grow,” she explains. “We’re in the business of helping these existing and new pet parents care for their new family members. So our focus now is on creating more customized offerings to meet their evolving needs and desires.”
With a solid mission and dedicated employees in offices across North America and the U.K., Cole believes Pethealth is well positioned to do just that. “We’ve got a strong team in place to deliver on our goals; combined, our leadership team has over 70 years of pet health insurance experience and the overall Pethealth employee team has over 250 years of animal welfare experience,” she notes. “We’re here to help shelter pets find their forever homes and help pet parents keep their pets healthy, safe, and secure.”
When it comes to their go-to-market strategy, “We have a pretty unique approach,” Cole shares. “Yes, we have competition when it comes to software, pet insurance, and the microchips. But what sets us apart is how we bring these products and services together through our partnerships with shelters. We partner with about two-thirds of these brick-and-mortar shelters in North America by providing them leading software at a discount. This enables them to operate much more efficiently and focus on the life-saving work they do. In return, they implant dogs and cats with 24PetWatch microchips and offer a complimentary trial insurance to all of their new pet adopters.”
Cole emphasizes that efficiency is a top priority for these shelters. “They want to be able to focus their resources on life-saving work,” she asserts. As a result, there is a major push to help shelters go paperless, to automate, and make the adoption process easier, with less labor required on the shelter’s part to facilitate the process. Cole highlights the importance of continuous improvement to support the shelters in these efforts: “Our investment of millions of dollars a year into the software drives automation and helps to facilitate operations, supporting the shelters in finding efficiency gains.”
The fact that microchipping is woven in to the adoption process is key for the go-to-market strategy, and also of great benefit to the adopting pet parents. “Like us, shelters are proponents of microchipping, because it is one of the best ways to reunite lost pets with their families,” Cole explains. “We supply microchips to the shelter, and they implant them in their adoptable pets prior to adoption. As part of the registration process at adoption, we then have the opportunity to provide insurance and our Lost Pet Recovery Services to those adoptable pets. This creates a win-win for all involved. And it is this approach that makes us unique. So, while we do have competition across all segments, we created a unique ecosystem between pet parents, animal shelters and Pethealth that sets us apart.”
According to Cole, this integrated approach and ease-of-use is why registration rates for 24PetWatch microchips are over 20 percent higher than industry averages, which is good for pets, pet parents, and shelters. Cole stresses the importance of lost pet services and Pethealth’s approach: “When a pet goes missing, it can be devastating for a family. Our top priority is getting any pet reunited with its family. This is why we recently made a major shift in our Lost Pet Recovery Service. Since 2018, we’ve been providing Lost Pet Recovery Services for free to all of the registered pet owners in our database. They can go online, update their contact information, and then, in the event their pet is lost, we can contact them by email or automated call to facilitate a reunion. Every year, Pethealth representatives handle over 250,000 lost pet related calls and help to reunite over 3000 lost pets with their families each month.”
The 24PetWatch Lost Pet Recovery Database has 14.5 million pets on file. Those registered pets have a better chance of being reunited with their family should they go missing. “If you find a lost pet, bring it to a veterinarian or call your local animal shelter or municipality. They will provide you with a location where you can bring the animal in to be scanned for their microchip,” Cole says. “Most veterinarians and shelters have a microchip reader at their location. They’ll scan the animal and contact the lost pet recovery service provider, like Pethealth. Once they call us, we leverage the contact information we have on hand, and we connect the person who has the pet with the pet owner.” In addition to veterinarian offices and shelters, Pethealth has equipped Petco retail stores with scanners, so found pets can also be taken to many Petco locations across the U.S. to be scanned for their microchip.
In addition to lost pet services, insurance is another way that 24PetWatch supports pet parents in the care of their pets, currently insuring over 120,000 pets across Canada and the U.S. According to Cole, approximately two percent of pet owners have pet insurance, while the cost of veterinary care has risen by 11 percent since 2017. This is concerning, since medical costs are one of the primary reasons pets are surrendered to shelters. “To address this, pet insurance is evolving and getting simpler for pet parents to understand and use,” she says. “There are now more options available to meet a broader range of income levels. Through partnering animal welfare organizations, 24PetWatch offers a complimentary 30-day trial of insurance, providing up to $3,000 of coverage to newly adopted dogs and cats. Flexibility in coverage options coupled with a complimentary trial period help pet parents recognize the benefits of insurance and how it can support them in managing costs to keep their pets healthy and cared for.”
Cole gives credit to U.S. underwriter Crum & Forster and Canadian underwriter Northbridge, both Fairfax companies, for their innovative work in the development of pet insurance, and to Allflex as their microchip provider. “Microchips are evolving. We now have some that can actually read dermal temperatures of pets. This creates an opportunity to incorporate health monitoring as a part of the microchip in the future, which is yet another way we can support pet health and care.”
This passion for pets and their welfare is embedded into the Pethealth culture. Cole shares the guiding principle that drives decision-making at the company: “We consider ourselves a ‘not-just-for-profit’ company, in that everything needs to pass through three filters. First, is it a win for pets and pet parents; are we providing high-value service to pet parents to help them care for their pets? Second, is it a win for animal welfare organizations and our partners; how can we support shelters and rescues to operate more efficiently so they can focus their scarce resources on the high-value, life-saving work they do? Third, is it a win for our employees and our shareholders? We believe that if we do right by our employees, they’re going to do right by our customers, which, in turn grows the business. So it’s not enough just to be a growth company – we need to grow the right way. That is at the core of the Pethealth culture.”
Pethealth does engage in activities outside of the animal welfare channel, but the animal welfare channel is the major segment. “Over a third of the pets acquired on an annual basis come through shelter adoptions and rescues,” Cole maintains. “That equates to about three million pets. So, of the six million pets that come in to shelters and rescues, about half are finding their way to new homes. So we think our support and focus on the animal shelters and animal welfare organizations is a good business model. Not only because it is a massive segment of the pet acquisition market, but also because it is a feel-good segment. Our employees can feel good about the work they are doing and, as a company, we can feel good about our investment.”
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: A provider of animal management software and other services
WHERE: Global headquarters in Oakville, Ontario
Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group – www.cfpetinsurance.com
As one of the oldest providers of pet health insurance, Crum & Forster Pet Insurance Group(TM) is a trusted partner. We work with employers, associations, brokers, and private labels to provide pet insurance coverage to their employees, members, and customers. We have turnkey programs that are easy to integrate into your current portfolio. In addition, we can provide flexible, unbundled administrative, technology, underwriting, and marketing services. www.cfpetinsurance.com. Products are underwritten by the United States Fire Insurance Company, produced and administered by C&F Insurance Agency, Inc. (NPN # 3974227), a Crum & Forster company.