Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Who Will Look After Your Pet When You’re Gone?

It's never an easy subject, but when you're responsible for another creature's well-being, you need to make arrangements in case you pass on before they do.

It's too easy –and happens all too often-- for pets to be left to their own devices for days or weeks before anyone thinks to check on them, after their human companion dies or goes into hospital suddenly. Many of them don't make it.

You can prevent that tragedy with some planning.

What kinds of pets do you have?

Some types of animals, particularly rodents, have fairly short life-spans, and it might be a relatively simple matter to arrange with a friend or a member of the local mouse club to take care of your pet for the remainder of its life. Dogs and rabbits live longer than most rodents, and cats live longer than them. All of these are "normal" pets, but finding a good home may not be easy. It can get even trickier if you keep horses, ferrets, or any of the birds, reptiles, or amphibians.

Who might be willing to take on the responsibility?

Ideally, a family member who is also a keen pet person would be willing to take on the responsibility of caring for your pet. If this family member already knows your pet, this is even better.

In addition to a long-term care provider, you should also line up one or two emergency care providers. These might be neighbours or your pet-sitter or a co-worker who would be willing to bridge the gap for a few days or weeks, until more permanent arrangements can be settled. Be sure they have a key to your house, and that you keep their contact information in your wallet on a card labeled "Pet Carer" or the like. The RSPCA also has a program called Pets of Older Persons available for those over 65 years of age and can provide emergency boarding.

Do you need a license to keep your pet? If so, does the person you're considering have the necessary licence? Or, is he or she eligible for it, at least? If your pet lizard's license is one that required at least two years of taking care of an "easier" species first, that might cut down on your options. This is one of many reasons that it's a great idea to be involved in your local or regional club or society for the kind of pet you have. Presuming you are already involved in your regional society, why not suggest this as a topic at a meeting? Get people thinking about the care of their pets after they are gone, too.

There are organisations which will try to re-home your pet for you. In fact, some rescue organisations require that the animal be returned to them, if you are no longer able to care for it. Investigate these now, before you need them. It would be a nice gesture to give them a donation, if you can and feel so inclined.

Set up a trust for your pet's care

Consider setting up a trust for the care of your pet. A trust is a legal instrument through which a quantity of money is administered for a specific purpose. In this case, the purpose is the care and upkeep of your pet. Under Australian law, your pets are your property, and they may not own property themselves. As a result, they cannot be the direct beneficiary of a trust.

You'll still need to find a person or organisation to take care of the animal, and that person or organisation would be the beneficiary. In addition, someone needs to administer the trust, preferably not the beneficiary. Here in New South Wales, there's a professional organization called NSW Trustee and Guardian, formed by an Act of Parliament. They even have a system set up in which they check that the pet is being cared for, by requiring reports of veterinary care.

Be aware that there is an 80-year limit on trusts. That could potentially be a problem if your pet has a long lifespan. The obvious examples here are parrots and turtles. Still, a trust would help ensure they'd be taken care of for a good chunk of time.

Make arrangements in your Will

Include mention of the trust in your Will. Also, include copies of veterinary documents and detailed information about the care of the pet with the Will. That way, there won't be as many questions later. Remember, you cannot make a gift of money or property to your pet, as can be done in some countries. However, you can (and probably should) make a gift of your pet along with money for upkeep to another human in your Will. As with any technical legal topic, you would be wise to check with a lawyer for details.

Put a non-permanent notice on your doors

Keep a non-permanent notice on your main doors which indicate that there are animals living in your home. Indicate how many there are, what species they belong to, their names, and who your emergency pet-care person is (with his or her contact information!). For example, an envelope taped to the inside of the window could contain most of the information. The outside of the envelope may be marked, "Pets in this house. Information as of (date) inside." A decorative door hanger could also contain this information.

Too often, the permanent stickers are not kept up to date, and may be from a previous home owner. As a result, they tend to be ignored. An obviously recent notice will be better. On the other hand, if you must use a sticker, put a date on the information.

Next steps
The next step to give some serious thought to possible people who might care for your pet when you're gone. Talk to them. If they are willing to take on this responsibility, or the responsibility of being the emergency carer, start making the arrangements. If not, start casting your net farther afield.

Also, start on your information notice for your doors. In an emergency, that piece of paper might save your pet's life.


Petfinder- Bringing A Dog Home - Providing Pets Future

Forbes Pet Trusts

NYC Bar Providing for Your Pet In The Event of Death Hospitalization

Make Your Will/Pets and Wills

Law Society Public Documents - What About Me? Your Pets and Your Will

Pets and Your Will - Including Pets In Your Will

Animal Law Guide

What Is A Will

Pets of Older Persons

About The Author: Dr Eloise Bright is the resident pet care expert at Love That Pet. When not working to keep her pet patients healthy, Eloise enjoys spending time with her family and pets.

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