Your Pet as a Survivor

"Where will I go?"

“Where will I go?”

Joy Wegner, Volunteer, Friends of Pinal County Animal Shelter and Rescues

Have you read an obituary that listed survivors of the deceased and it included a beloved pet by name? Maybe the neighborhood news included comments about a neighbor who was unable to take their pet with them into assisted living. Where did the dog, the cat, the gerbil, or the rabbit find a new home?

Responsible pet owners need to make arrangements for their pet’s well-being when they can no longer care for their companion, or when they are gone from this earth. Planning ahead can ensure that Fido, Tabby, or other beloved creatures will be safe and comfortable, not placed in a shelter or with someone who is unwilling to care for the pet.

First, plan for short-term emergencies. Carry an “alert card” in your wallet that indicates a pet resides at your home, and the name and contact information for someone who you’ve arranged to care for your pet should an emergency or accident happen to you. It’s also helpful to post this information somewhere obvious in your home that emergency personnel can clearly see. Just be sure you’ve coordinated with the named individuals so that they are aware of your plans.

Emergency caregivers could be neighbors, trusted friends, or family members who live nearby. Make sure it is someone you trust, and that they have basic care instructions for your pet, as well as the pet’s veterinary contact information. Also notify your vet of the temporary caregiver’s name and contact information.

Next, think of long-term care for your pet. If you were to move to a “no pets allowed” home, or if you were to die, who would willingly take your pet and provide the care you would want for your favorite furry friend?

Once again, consider trusted friends or family members. Have a heartfelt discussion with them about their commitment to your pet. Make sure you consider the well-being of your pet in that different environment. Talk to potential long-term caregivers about their plans to keep your pet, as well as financial considerations.

Many pet owners provide written instructions about future plans for their pets. Share these instructions with any heirs, family members, and your veterinarian. A copy of these instructions can be kept with your will or your trust. You might include clauses within the will or the trust to cover pet care. Just be aware of legal implications as well as regular reviews and updates.

Do you want to include funding for the future care of your pet from your estate? You cannot leave money directly to a pet, but you could designate a specific person to receive the funds exclusively for the pet’s expenses.

A few organizations offer services that will provide for your pet, usually for a fee or a donation. Carefully analyze this option, and fully understand the details. Your pet has likely grown accustomed to being with people and living in a comfortable home. Find out where your pet will be housed, for how long, by whom, and the organization’s process to get your pet adopted and adjusted to a new home.

You love your pet today. Plan thoughtfully for their continued life.