As an animal attorney, I interact with a lot of people who are extremely responsible companion animal guardians, and yet many of them have no plan for who would care for their beloved animals in the event they were no longer able. Whether it’s a pet trust, a will, or simply realistic and sincere conversations you have with someone committed to helping, these are important considerations to ponder before the need arises.
Carry an identification card alerting others to pets home alone.
I am an avid outdoor athlete…at times out in the woods on foot or bike for hours at a time by myself. I also share my home with two canine family members, but no other humans. If something were to happen to me out on the roads or trails, who would know there were animals in my home that needed food, water, and care? The first line of defense is to carry a card or other method to alert others that you have animals in need. I wear something on my watch band that has emergency contact numbers and states that I have “dogs home alone,” in the event I may not be conscious or able to get help for them. It looks like this:
I also carry a card in my wallet that shares the same information…in case of a car accident or any other time that I would actually be carrying a wallet/ID. You can order (or even download for free) many of these types of cards online. Mine is laminated as well for added durability.
Think about including your companion animals in a will or pet trust.
Beyond the most immediate care, it is always good to make a plan. Remember the famous saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” And this is one area you don’t want to fail your trusty companion(s). If you have financial resources or even death benefits, you may want to speak with an attorney regarding including your animal in your will or creating a pet trust. The benefit of the trust is that it is invoked by incapacity or death, whereas a will only comes into play upon your death.
I don’t have resources, but still want to provide for my animal…What can I do?
Just as I tell my clients, I personally do not have a pet trust or will. I have someone I trust with my life, and more importantly, the lives of my dogs, in the event I don’t make it home. I have known this person for a long time and we have fully discussed the “uncomfortable” details, otherwise known as logistics.
My family is also fully aware of this arrangement and on board with it.
If this is the path you take, know that there are many considerations. I’ve seen people think their sister would take their dog, only to have the sister have a child/new husband/partner who was then allergic to dogs. Sorry folks, children and significant others usually win over promises to a sibling’s animal. The moral of this story, have a back-up plan wherever possible.
That’s enough doom and gloom for now. Go out and have some responsible fun with your dog(s)!
Calley Gerber-Gerber Animal Law Center
4030 Wake Forest Road Suite 300 Raleigh, NC 27609