What happens to your Pet when you are no longer able to take care of it?

As the person that answers the telephones for Pals for Paws, I can tell you that this is a very sad and emotional question. The pet owner has died and no one now wants the pet. The pet is wonderful, healthy, loving and needing someone to provide it with a new home. No one steps up to bat. No one wants the animal. Many times, no provisions were made for this eventuality – but many times, the person that said they would take the animal when Mom died, is no longer interested.

In the confusion that accompanies a person’s unexpected illness, accident, or death, pets may be overlooked. In some cases, pets are discovered days after the tragedy – especially with cats that may hide when health care providers or the emergency responders come. To prevent this from happening to your pet, take these simple precautions:

Designate at least two responsible friends or relatives who agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers. Provide them with keys, feeding instructions, the name of your veterinarian; and information about what provisions you have made for a new long-term home.

Make sure your neighbors, friends and relatives know how many pets you have and the names and contact numbers of the individuals who have agreed to serve as emergency caregivers.

Carry a wallet “alert card” that lists the names and contact information of emergency pet caregivers.

Post removable “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows specifying how many and what types of pets you have to guide emergency-response personnel.

Have all necessary information readily available. I have a large envelope in my kitchen with all pertinent information in case something happens to me. It includes who to contact if I am unable to do so, pet information, financial information and my last wishes.   This envelope is in a place that would be easy to find. You could hang it on your refrigerator.

How can you assure long-term or permanent care for your pet? The best way is to make a formal arrangement that specifically covers the care of your pet. You may consider providing the financial means for their care as long as they live. You many choose to have an attorney create this document. It is not enough that a friend or relative has verbally promised to take your animal. Things change.

When you designate someone as the recipient of your beloved pet, make sure that they really want it. Many times, adult children say that they would take the pet; but when the time comes, their lives are not compatible with this new addition to their household.  The rescue groups in our area are always full and cannot easily take in just one more. Older dogs and cats are harder to adopt. Everybody wants a kitten or puppy, but not a senior animal.  It is not always a happy ending when they are taken to the shelter.

Most important, leave instructions in your Will.  You can go to humanesociety.org/petsinwills for more information on what you need in your Will and how to prepare it.

Do it now while you are thinking about it. Time goes by so quickly and there is so much to do, that we forget. This is important. Pals for Paws does not want to receive a call that you have died or are no longer able to take care of your pet and no one wants it.  Can we take it? Unfortunately, the answer is “no.”  We will do everything we can to find a new home but this takes time and we do not have any foster homes.

This is not a happy subject because we all think we have plenty of time and we are going to live forever. It is never too early to make these arrangements. Even when you are young and feel like your whole life is ahead of you. Things happen quickly.

This is a good reminder for me too. I have not done all of these things but I am putting it on my To Do ASAP calendar.

Bonnie Compton, Pals for Paws, 252-637-7387