The pets of Palm Beach County can rest a little bit easier tonight.

Under a new Palm Beach Community College (PBCC) policy the geckos, guinea pigs and sugar gliders of employees are eligible for coverage under College sponsored health insurance plans while the domestic partners of employees aren’t.

The college distributed a memo last week outlining the new policy whereby pet owners could opt into the pet benefit program offered by a private veterinary insurance company funded by payroll deduction, according to an article in The Palm Beach Post.

Though odd, the policy wouldn’t have raised eyebrows in the blogosphere if PBCC trustees hadn’t voted down a proposal to allow the domestic partners of full-time employees health insurance benefits in August.

PBCC spokeswoman Grace Truman told the Post the program is nothing more than a private company offering college employees a discount for their services, likening it to a flower service or a membership to Sam’s Club. All three incentives are promotional and cost the school nothing, she said.

Her argument falls short, however, as the veterinary insurance program is paid for much in the same fashion as any other insurance program – through payroll deduction.

Any thinking person could have predicted a strong reaction to news that kittens were going to receive company-sponsored health care while domestic partners were left to fend for themselves.

The news prompted queerty.com, which advertises itself as “the gay blog” to ask, “Are humans less worthy than pets?” It is this sort of perception – that a college or university sees homosexuals as less than human – that an institute of higher learning must avoid at nearly any cost.

Hillsborough County Community College, PBCC’s northern neighbor, offers domestic partner benefits to its employees, and USF set up a committee last year to investigate a similar program’s viability at the University.

Truman also told the Post that the college’s president and director of human resources both support a domestic partner insurance program, but that the measure failed in August partly because there were only four – instead of the standard five – trustees at the time of the vote.

PBCC’s latest move may have forced the issue of another vote, as administrators look to cover a public relations disaster.

We hope the College will change its current policy and join its peers in offering equitable health care coverage. Meanwhile, while puppies receive stellar health care, employees’ partners are treated like unwanted strays.