Imagine this scenario. You have passed away leaving your beloved pet behind with no one else in the home. What happens if you are not discovered right away, they could go without food or water. And once authorities arrive, the procedure is to have animal control take your pet into custody and taken to the local shelter. If no one steps up and claims the animal, there is a good chance that either they can be put up for adoption or worse placed in a kill shelter.
On top of that, can you imagine what your beloved pet must be going through? You’re suddenly gone, their home and all their belongings are gone, and they are in a strange and often loud and confusing environment.
To prevent this from happening to your pet there are some simple precautions to take that will prevent any of this from happening.
Signage. Post removable stickers on the outside of your door and/or windows that shows “in case of emergency” information about how many and what type of pets you have. These work for firefighters as well as medical personnel. Why removable stickers? Because often people will move and leave stickers behind. If they are worn out, firefighters will sometimes ignore them or worse attempt to rescue a pet that no longer lives there. Use removable stickers that you can change annually and make sure to put the year on them to show they are recent. Also, be sure to include your pet’s name so that they can call it out and then they won’t be as frightened when a stranger enters their home.
Place stickers inside the front and back door. These stickers will have emergency contacts that include the person who is responsible for caring for your pet in case of emergency, your vet, and any medications your pet might need. Again, be sure to include what kind of animal it is and their names.
Wallet Card A simple paper card that is with your driver’s license or medical emergency card that lists who is to be contacted in case of emergency is an easy way to get the information quickly to the right people.
Tell Everyone Make sure your neighbors, friends, and family members all know your wishes beforehand. Sadly, when the ones who love you the most begin to grieve the last thing they are thinking about is your pets. Just as you would tell them about your wishes for your burial, your will, and all that goes with your passing, tell them (and put into writing) what exactly should be done for your animals.
Select Responsible People Near You Often your family might not be nearby. Find at least 2 different neighbors or friends who agree to be temporary emergency caregivers in case of your passing or even a catastrophic health event such as a stroke or heart attack. Give them your vet’s name and number, a list of any medications, a schedule of when they eat/exercise, and the information concerning permanent care provisions. Make sure they have a set of keys to your home and any alarm codes.
Designate a Permanent Caregiver Maybe a family member or friend has promised to take in your animal in case of your passing. Make sure that everyone knows who they are and multiple ways to get in touch with them. Talk beforehand about the process of them taking over the care of your pet. Notify your vet ahead of time that they will now be in charge and will have the right to make any and all decisions. Consider leaving some money in your will to help cover ongoing expenses. Also, check in annually with your permanent caregiver as circumstances change and you want to make sure they are still up for the job.
Make a will or living trust. Just as we mentioned giving full custody to a permanent caregiver, a written will can make the transition even easier. Also, you can decide instead for your pet to go to a pet retirement home or sanctuary where you can designate money from your estate to pay the expenses. Research and visit any facility that you are considering. You don’t want it to feel like an institution where they are locked away but somewhere that they can live out their years in comfort and with great care. If you or your legal advisor would like more information on any of these matters, please contact The HSUS’s Planned Giving Office, at 1-800-808-7858, or The HSUS’s Office of the General Counsel, at 202-452-1100, extension 3320 or The Humane Society at https://www.humanesociety.org/.
As much as you love them in life, love them in death. They are your friends, your companions, and your family. Make sure you take care of them just as you did when you were there.