If something were to happen to you, what would happen to me?

by Sari Reis, CPPS, 2013 Pet Sitter of the Year™ 

Last year one of my clients made a special request. He asked if I would be willing to be his dog’s caretaker if something should happen to him. I have never had a client ask that of me before. After discussing the details and giving the matter a great deal of consideration, I said yes. He thanked me profusely for giving him peace of mind knowing his “best friend” will be looked after. Every year in the United States 500,000 dogs and cats are placed inwhen im gone shelters due to their owner’s death or inability to continue caring for them. Almost all of these animals are adoptable but due to the trauma of moving from a stable loving home to a crowded and often frightening shelter environment, many of the “orphaned” pets do not adjust very well. They refuse to eat, become despondent and are categorized as unadoptable and therefore euthanized; and all because the owner didn’t plan for the possibility of their pets outliving them. This doesn’t have to happen. By appropriate planning for this contingency, an “orphaned” companion animal can make a fairly smooth transition into a continuing care situation. The planning involves three major steps:

1) Identify potential caregivers and get their commitment to taking on the responsibility. To find the appropriate caretaker you can talk to friends and relatives. You can ask your veterinarian, talk to local pet sitters/dog walkers, doggie daycare facilities, rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations.

Another option is placing your pet in a Perpetual Care Facility. Many universities with Veterinary Colleges offer this type of care. Animal welfare groups, such as Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, are another possibility. These continuing lifetime care programs are especially good for animals that have “special needs” and may be more difficult to place in a private home.

2) Put together a list of instructions for the pet’s ongoing care.

This list should include:

  • The pet’s diet .
  • The location of leash, harness, crate, carrier, litter box, food and water bowls, bed, toys, etc.
  • Veterinary information and records.
  • Personality traits – such as likes other dogs/cats, good with children, loves affection, loves to play fetch, doesn’t like paws touched, commands the dog understands and so on.

3) Set up legal documentation and financial arrangements to pay for the lifetime care of the pet. Currently there are 38 states that have Pet Trust Statutes. A pet trust is a legal method that ensures that your pet will receive continuing care. In the trust, the pet owner names the caregiver or guardians for the pet, the instructions for his/her ongoing care, and a method of funding that ongoing care. These “pet trusts” can be set up through a lawyer or estate planner or online at a couple of different sites including www.legalzoom.com and www.companionpettrust.com . There is a wealth of information available on this subject on the Internet. I suggest you start at: www.2ndchance4pets.org. I urge you to do your planning now…before it is too late.

Sari Reis is owner of Mission Valley Pet Sitting Services, serving the San Diego area in California.  More information about her business can be found at http://www.missionvalleypetsitting.com/default.html

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