Hardly a day goes by that I don't receive at least one e-mail asking if I can help re-home a cat or dog, often more than one, because he owner died or was taken to a nursing home. If there is family, they swoop in, take what material things they can and then either leave the pet(s) in the house or thrown out on the street. At most they will say they will take the pets to the shelter if someone won't take them. We know what that means. Often the pets are elderly and are euthanized. That's the pretty word. Let's be blunt: they're killed. Surely that is not what the owner wants for their beloved companion who was often the only one there providing love and comfort. No one thinks this will happen to their pets but it will unless you make provisions now if you haven't already done so.When I ask if your pets are covered, I don't mean by blankets. I mean what happens to your pets if/when you die or are incapacitated? Although we hate to think about it, it's inevitable. Any one of us could be hit by a bus, killed in a car accident, be felled by an incurable disease, or someday end up in a nursing home. What will happen to your beloved pets?
Here are some simple steps you can take now, today, to ensure that your pets won't end up homeless, starving on the streets, or killed in a shelter.
1. Ask a trusted friend if s/he will look after your pet(s) in the event of your death.
2. Go to a lawyer and make out your will. If you already have one, have your lawyer add a codicil naming the person who will take care of your pet(s). Do not name your pets because they may not be the one(s) you have when you die. Periodically ask the person if they still agree to do this or you will have to name someone else. And be sure to set aside money for each pet's care.
3. Make out a Pet Trust. This will allow the person who will take your pet(s) to have immediate access to your pet(s) and the money you are leaving for their care.
According to Louise A. Holton, President of Alley Cat Rescue in Maryland, "You should leave a Pet Trust as well as a Will. Leave a copy with friends and family and choose a good friend or family member to agree to take your cats [or dogs], with a donation of money to help them. A Pet Trust is available immediately upon your death and does not have to go through your estate. In a will it could take years for an animal to get any money,"
That's excellent advice. Only four States in the U.S. don't have a Pet Trust law as of 2012. Those States are Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota and Mississippi. You'll have to check with your lawyer for a way in which to handle this if you live in one of those States. Some States will allow the amount you leave to be reduced or redirected if it exceeds what the Court thinks it's in excess of the intended use.
If you don't want to use a lawyer, you can use a form on the website Legal Zoom to create a Pet Trust. It will cost about $50. to $80. to do it online.
Holton has seen the results when this happens or if the caretaker of a cat colony dies. She and her organization's volunteers have had to go in and place the cats. Louise Holton cares so much that she has written a brochure, Leave a Legacy of Love for members of Alley Cat Rescue.
Responsible cat and dog breeders state in their contract that if, for any reason, the person can't keep the cat or dog at anytime in that cat or dog's life, it is to be returned to the breeder. This is something many people don't consider when their relative dies without leaving a will and a Pet Trust.
You love your four-legged companion. Please do the right thing. Don't leave grieving friends and strangers to pick up the pieces, scrambling to find homes for your pets. Or worse: no one does anything and they either starve to death, are hit by a car, attacked by wildlife or nasty humans, or are killed in a shelter. We each have a responsibility for our four-legged companions and that includes who will care for them when we no longer can.