I am the sole caregiver for my pets, so if something happens to me their well-being is in jeopardy, since my two brothers are not dog lovers. While I am in good health, accidents or the unexpected can occur. I had a caregiver in mind, but circumstances have changed. Older pets languish the longest in shelters, and my dogs are twelve, seven and six years old and are more likely to be put down. This Reuters Money article says:

“This is not a unique situation, most ordinary pet owners want to provide for their pets should they become incapacitated or die. An estimated 500,000 pets are euthanized every year at shelters and at veterinarians as a result of pet owners predeceasing their pets.  “Many people outlive their pets, and they assume that relatives or friends will step in if something happens to them,” says Scottsdale, Arizona estate planning attorney and pet owner Joel Klinge. “Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.”

CNN had a great article about planning ahead and I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing most of it.

• Create a pet care plan — and share it.

  • Write a detailed list of everything associated with caring for your pet, such as dietary restrictions, favorite toys and even temperament issues, medication and vet. This information will help you determine who is best suited for caring for your pet. Of course you need to discuss it with the individual. Don’t minimize the amount of care your animals require.  Most important of all, gain their consent.  Don’t assume that your family will want to take care of your dog or cat.  Also it is best to have more than one person picked out. Life happens, and circumstances change.

• Consider setting aside money for pet expenses.

  • Pets are expensive, there is no getting around this. While most individuals love animals, in today’s economic climate many people just can’t afford them. It is sound practice to make sure that the individual you select to care for your animals has the money to do so.

• Do the legal legwork.

  • First rule of thumb, put it in writing. Depending on your state, you can provide for your pet in a will, contract or pet trust.  A pet trust is the most costly since it establishes a trustee who then makes payments to the caregiver. You do have to designate a trustee, backup trustee, caregiver, and backup caregiver. However, the trust makes sure that your pets are cared for in case of a contested will. ASPCA has a list of states here.

• Consult an attorney or estate planner.

  • Laws vary from state to state.

– Emergency Contact List

  • Carry an emergency contact list in your wallet or purse that includes friends or neighbors who can quickly reach your pets. Medical personnel then know that you have animals and can notify the correct individuals.

Petfinder’s also has an article that addresses these issues.  They even have an example of a will.  Also mentioned is:

  • Post removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have for emergency personnel. They recommend not using permanent stickers because many firefighters assume that they are old and outdated.
  • Affix to the inside of your front and back doors a removable notice listing emergency contact names and phone numbers in addition to the information in your wallet.

Don’t let the words of  Willie’s  song “little things I should have said and done” impact your pets.

If you have pets, have you already planned ahead insuring their welfare?  If so, I would love to hear about it.  If you haven’t yet finalized any plans do you think it is something you will do in the future?

– Leigh AAR

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