Contributed by Angie Lewis, President of Alaska Animal Advocates
Approximately a half million dogs and cats are euthanized on a yearly basis after their guardians pass away. We share our lives with these beautiful creatures; love them and consider them part of our family. However, so many of us do not deal with the issue of who will care for them when we are gone or incapacitated. It is a difficult situation to even contemplate, but making arrangements for your pet is not actually complicated.
The most important step in this process is deciding who will become your animal friend’s next guardian. Make sure to discuss your choice with the person you have in mind. This should be a mutual agreement, not a surprise. Family members are not always the best choice when delegating this responsibility. Make sure that this person has the ability to care for your pet. They should have enough time, share in most of your pet care philosophy, and be able to provide for your pet financially. If possible, choose a second guardian in case something happens to your first choice and they become unable to provide care for your pet. Make every effort to create a fund to help with the financial burden that ensues with a pet’s care.
Discus your expectations and hopes with this caretaker – don’t leave anything to chance. It is best to plan for your pet’s care in writing and make sure that family members, neighbors, or other involved people have a copy of this plan. This information can even become a part of your will.
If you do not have anyone that would provide appropriate care for your pet, things become a bit more challenging. You may need to utilize other resources, such as a shelter, a rescue organization, your veterinarian, or the group that you adopted your pet from. Another option would be an animal sanctuary that you have researched thoroughly. There are many such organizations nationally.
If you do not prepare and make arrangements for your beloved pet in your will, he will automatically go to your beneficiary. Name one or more individuals as your pet’s caretaker in your will. These individuals should agree to care for your pet, and you should provide financially for the required care for the remainder of your pet’s life. If you do not have a will, your pet will go to your next of kin.
A legal document called a “Pet Trust” should be included in your will. This document will allow for you to have a great deal of control about your pet’s care after your death. This document will allow for you to choose a trustee, who will handle the finances for your pet, decide on the type of care your pet will receive, and what will happen to your pet, should the caretaker no longer be able to care for him.
Another type of trust is a “Revocable Living Trust”. This document helps avoid probate, which reduces the chance of disputes concerning your will.
There are a number of different sources for funding pet care. Cash, life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, and assets such as your house or vehicles. It would be wise to consult an attorney to determine the best way to go about setting up a viable process for caring for your pet. Although none of us wants to think about our own death, we would certainly feel more comfortable knowing that the animals we love so dearly will be cared for when we are gone.