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More and more US companies are offering pet insurance as an option to employees. For Liberty Hotel it was a natural extension of their pet policy. Also, it is a low-cost way to make employees happy, as the benefit is entirely paid for by staff.

“People who are dog people or cat people, they love their pets as much as they love their own children,’’ said general manager Rachel Moniz.

The voluntary benefit can be offered at a group discount. According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, voluntary benefits are becoming more prevalent as consumers seek more options to manage costs and other risks during a down economy.

Also many pets are living longer, so costly surgeries are rising. “We’re bonding with our pets the wealthier we get, and once we become more bonded, we see the value more of taking care of their health,’’ said Dennis Drent, chief executive of Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., known as VPI, who once asked his wife how much she would be willing to spend on their longhaired miniature dachshund. “I got to $10,000 and my wife didn’t even flinch.’’

Pet insurance also provides a competitive advantage in the hiring process, said Barbara Trevisan, spokeswoman for Pine Street Inn, which started offering the coverage last summer after several employees asked for it. “We feel it is one of the things we can do, because we know the work is hard,’’ she said.

For more information on VPI, visit the company website and Twitter account.

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