Financing for Fido? Town & Country FCU Unleashes Pet Loans

(From Mainebiz) – With pet owners spending more money on their animal companions, one Maine credit union is offering its members a helping paw in the form of pet loans.

Town & Country Federal Credit Union, which is based in South Portland and has an operations center in Scarborough, recently introduced pet loans at an interest rate of 6.99%. That’s comparable to what it charges for other consumer loans.

“In Maine we have a high level of pet ownership and I think all kinds of demographics enjoy pets,” David Libby, President and CEO of Town & Country FCU, told Mainebiz.

He said that demographic includes a growing number of singles, who have limited resources to draw from in case of a pet emergency.

“People enjoy their pets, and I’m sure it is going to continue to get more expensive to own a pet,” said Libby, a pet owner himself with a labradoodle at home.

Noting that owners spend an average of $800 to $1,500 a year on their pooches and felines, Town & Country is offering loans to help defray costs of medicine, emergencies, and vet visits.  It also cites recent statistics showing Maine second in in the country in terms of households with cats, and among the Top 25 in dog ownership.

Since introducing the loans a few months ago, more than a dozen of the credit union’s members have made inquiries about borrowing.

Libby said amounts are typically above $1,000, with some in the range of $4,000 to $5,000, and that loans can run for up to three years.

Demand “is actually very good,” Libby said. “Just the stuff that happens with pets, where they eat something and they need to get surgery for their stomach, can be very expensive.”

Libby said Town & Country decided to add pet loans to its product mix after observing employees’ experiences with their own animal companions and asking how they were covering expenses.

Further research revealed that some owners were having medical procedures done on their pets, and then had to borrow money to cover the costs at fees of more than 20%. Some insurers charged high deductibles. Given that most Mainers don’t even have $400 in emergency savings, Town & Country pounced on what it saw as market niche opportunity with huge growth potential.

Besides emergencies and routine medical care, Libby said the loans can also be used to finance adoptions, which can also be pricey.

“At first I didn’t realize it was that expensive,” he said, “but some adoptions can cost up to $800 for a dog and $250 for a cat.”

He said the credit union is using some digital marketing to get the word out about the new loans.

It’s also signed on as a sponsor of the Ales for Tails dog-friendly beer festival Aug. 24 at Thompson’s Point in Portland, organized by the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

Jeana Roth, the nonprofit group’s director of community engagement, is enthusiastic about Town & Country’s involvement in the event (as a so-called “Cat’s Meow” sponsor) and its new loan product.

“You can never predict when urgent or emergency care is needed for your beloved pet,” she told Mainebiz. “Having a local option like Town & Country’s new pet loan program can be of great support in terms of need for families with four-legged members.”

The pet loan is only available to Town & Country members, and Libby said he hopes it will ultimately increase membership.

“We hope people look to us for solutions, and look at all the other services we offer at outstanding and extremely competitive pricing,” he said. “Hopefully someone will give us a better look and bring their business to us.”