In my 17 years of practice I have been lucky/honored to be actively involved (either as a Board Member or Community Volunteer) at 3 local no kill shelters and animal hospitals.
This statement comes up frequently….
“I never felt that I needed to have a Will because I don’t have any children who depend on me for their care. Then I realized, my goodness, I DO have a dependent! Who will take care of my pet if I become incapacitated, have emergency requiring overnight medical treatment or, if, gosh forbid, I pass away?”
If you have pets, you may think of them as your children. Yet, while many folks provide for their actual children in their estate plan, they might not make any provision for their pets—or even know that this is allowed.
Pets of owners who are suddenly unable to take care of their four legged (or two in the case of our Spectacled Amazon Parrot) because of an incapacity or death…. Sometimes; run away, are taken to a shelter, put up for adoption or euthanized. I recently read that the Humane Society of the United States estimates that 4 to 5 million pets are euthanized annually, with more than 1 million of these as a direct result of the failure of their owners to provide for their pets in the event of death or incapacity. I am not sure if this is the case. But just the possibility that this is true is indeed very disquieting.
This doesn’t have to happen to your pets.
If you care about your pet, PLEASE do not leave things up in the air.
Put your wishes in writing, and keep your pets out of court. They wouldn’t have a clue what to wear, anyway.
Here is some sample language to look at. But please do not use this without some advice from an attorney licensed in your state and who knows your personal planning needs.
As a matter of high priority and importance, I direct my Personal Representative to place any and all animals I may own at the time of my death with another individual or family (that is, in a private, no institutionalized setting) where such animals will be cared for in a manner that any responsible, devoted pet owner would afford to his or her pets. Prior to initiating such efforts to place my animals, I direct my Personal Representative to consult ______________________, D.V.M. (currently at the _______________________ Hospital), or, in the event of Dr. _____________’s unavailability, a veterinarian chosen by my Personal Representative, to ensure that each animal is in generally good health and is not suffering physically. In addition, I direct my Personal Representative to provide any needed, reasonable veterinary care that my animal(s) may need at that time to restore the animal(s) to generally good health and to alleviate suffering, if possible. Any animal(s) not in generally good health or who is so suffering—and whose care is beyond the capabilities of veterinary medicine, reasonably employed, to restore to generally good health or to alleviate suffering—shall be euthanized, cremated, and the ashes disposed of at the discretion of my Personal Representative. Any expenses incurred for the care (including the costs of veterinary services), placement, or transportation of my animals, or to otherwise effect the purposes of this Article ___________ up to the time of placement, shall be charged against the principal of my residuary estate. Decisions my Personal Representative makes under this Article ____________________—for example, with respect to the veterinary care to be afforded to my animal(s) and the costs of such care—shall be final. My intention is that my Personal Representative have the broadest possible discretion to carry out the purposes of this paragraph.