As a responsible pet owner, you provide your pet with food and water, shelter, veterinary care, and love. To ensure that your beloved pet will continue to receive this care should something unexpected happen to you, it’s critical to plan ahead.
Because pets usually have shorter life spans than their human caregivers, you may have planned for your animal friend’s passing. But let’s face it: None of us knows when we’re going to die. Most of us assume that we will outlive our pets. Sadly, that’s not always the case; a car accident or sudden illness might claim your life tomorrow. That’s why it is vitally important to make arrangements now for the care of your pets.
Find at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers in the event that something unexpected happens to you. Provide your caregivers with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; instructions on any medication your pets may require; the name of your veterinarian; and information about the permanent care provisions you have made.
Emergency caregivers should also know how to contact each other.
Make sure your neighbors, friends, and relatives know how many pets you have and the names and contact numbers of the individuals who have agreed to serve as emergency caregivers. To assist emergency personnel, carry a wallet “alert card” that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers. At your home post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have. On the inside of your front and back doors affix a notice listing emergency contact names and phone numbers.
The best way to make sure your wishes are fulfilled is by also making formal arrangements that specifically cover the care of your pets. Work with an attorney to draw up a special will, trust, or other document to provide for the care and ownership of your pets as well as the money necessary for their care.
Part of your plan should include a permanent caregiver for your pets (it may also be necessary to designate more than one caregiver to place all of your pets in new permanent homes). Also, name alternate caregivers in case your first choices become unable or unwilling to take your pets.
You must keep in mind the critical importance of making advance personal arrangements to ensure that your pets are cared for immediately if you die or become incapacitated.
After you and your lawyer create a will, trust, or both, leave copies with the person you’ve chosen to be executor of your estate as well as with the pets’ designated caregiver so that he or she can look after your pets immediately.
Although it’s not necessary, many people set aside a sum of money to leave to the caregiver to pay for ongoing expenses; especially for animals with chronic illnesses.
Preparing a will that includes care for your pets is vital. Failure to plan ahead can have disastrous results. Oftentimes, animals left behind when an owner dies end up being surrendered to an animal shelter. These animals who have lost their caregiver now find themselves in a foreign environment away from the lifestyle that they have lived, in the case of older animals, for many years. Don’t delay, begin your planning today!