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Is Your Dog Protected if Something Happens to You?

Do you have a plan for your dog if something happens to you?

I know this question is daunting and arguably somewhat morbid, but it’s also a necessary topic. Since it’s tax season and a time of year when people organize their affairs, Carol from Fidose of Reality and myself, thought your dog’s future plans would be a great topic to discuss.

No one wants to think about a time when they are no longer able to care for themselves or their family. However, those who do, are doing their family members and their pets a huge favor. If you are taking the time to be prepared, here are a variety of scenarios you should be prepare for:

  • If you get sick or injured: Of course I am not referring to a cold or flu, I am referring to a long-term illness or injury. Evaluating the possibility of an injury is particularly important if you are solely responsible for pets.
  • If you have a drastic change in your living circumstances: Things happen. Unfortunately, in our ever-changing financial environment, a family can lose their current lifestyle and potentially lose their home. For example, there were a number of dogs and cats that were abandoned during the recession.
    • “[In 2008], across the country, animal shelters were overwhelmed by pets that were being surrendered by their owners. In response, the HSUS set up a “foreclosure pets fund” that provides financial aid to pet owners who are facing foreclosure or eviction.”. – NPR. Many people needed temporary solutions and homes for their pet, which having a plan could provide.
  • If there is a natural disaster: Right now in California, all kinds of people are being displaced from their homes and might need to find temporary care for their pets. Keep in mind that during these times, local shelters tend to get overwhelmed and overcrowded.
  • If you pass: When I worked at the veterinary hospital, there were a few situations where veterinary technicians took responsibility for other people’s pets when they suddenly passed and there wasn’t a plan. One example I remember very well was Mr. Tankersley. Mr. Tankersley was a client at a veterinary hospital I worked at in Davis, and he had 7 cats. Unfortunately, he passed suddenly, and his family was unable to take his 7 cats. Due to their ages (between 10-12 years old) it would be very difficult to find a forever homes for 7 adult cats in a few weeks. Fortunately, Mr. Tankersley donated regularly to a cat rescue that was happy to take all seven cats and find homes for them, but even that arrangement took time as the cats had to be transported across states.

As you can see, a number of things can go wrong and leave your pet’s future at risk. Therefore, I would like to walk you through creating a plan for your pet’s future.

Creating a Plan

Can a friend or family member step up?

The Humane Society recommends not only reaching out to friends and family members to see if they are willing to care for your pet long-term, but also to make sure that you have people who can step up immediately to provide emergency care in the short-term. One very important point is to make sure that the different caregivers know each other to make coordinating your pet’s care much easier.

Choosing a Permanent Caregiver

Selecting a person that will care for your dog is a very difficult decision. Here are a few things you should ask yourself:

  • Is this person familiar with your dog’s breed? For example, Rooney is a herding breed and his herding breed tendencies are strong. I wouldn’t want someone who didn’t know anything about herding breeds to care for him long-term because frankly, they might not understand him.
  • Will this person provide the same level of veterinary care as you? If you will spare no expense for your pet, it’s important that the person you choose reflects that same decision making.
  • Does this person have room for your pets in their home? While I know a handful of people who would be more than suitable to care for Rooney should something happen to my husband and myself, I know that not every person has room in their home to take Rooney at a moments notice.

Formulate a Formal Plan with Your Veterinarian

Does your veterinary hospital know what plans you have for your pet? You can request to add emergency contact information to your pet’s medical record. You may be thinking to yourself that this is an unnecessary step. However, if you don’t have any nearby family members, your veterinary hospital can be a great resource for helping your family organize your pet’s affairs should something happen to you. For example, let’s say Rooney’s designated caregiver is named Sarah. I can call my veterinary hospital and document that if something has happened to me and my husband, Sarah (last name) has the authorization to request Rooney’s records be sent to her veterinary hospital.

Because your veterinary staff cares about you and your pets (I promise you they do), they will want to help, and it will help them and your family if you document this ahead of time.

Talk to a Local Rescue

While you can do your very best to prepare your pet’s affairs and the people who you have spoken with, circumstances change. You never know if someone will be able to keep your pet long-term. If so, be sure to provide your caregivers with the information for a local (to them) rescue. For example, if I had arrangements for Rooney to live in Southern California, I would make sure his caregiver had contact information for Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, which is a Corgi rescue in Southern California. Should they be unable to keep Rooney long-term (and neither could either of my backup caregiver selections), I would want them to take Rooney to a breed specific rescue rather then a shelter.

Talk to Your Pet Insurance Company

Specifically, make sure that your pet’s health insurance remains if something happens to you. For research for this blog post, I called Trupanion which is Rooney’s pet insurance to see what I could do to make sure Rooney is covered should something happen to us. As it turns out, I need to make sure that Rooney’s caregiver has his policy information in order to continue his health insurance.

Funding for Your Pet

Speaking of insurance, have you considered the potential costs associated with finding a new forever home for your pet? Or the travel associated with rehoming? The Humane Society of the United States provided this sample information to include in your will so that your executor can expend funds to cover your pet’s temporary care.

“{Article Number} A. 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, non-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.” – Sample information from “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You” The Humane Society of the United States

Other things to consider:

  • Does someone have a key to your house? If you travel without your dog, and you and your spouse (or other family members are injured), can someone get into your home to let your dog out? These people should probably be the friends and family members that you identified above.
  • Are their immediate instructions available? Specifically, do you have feeding instructions and a list of medications for your pet readily available in your home?
  • Does your pet know these people you have entrusted? Rooney warms up to people quickly, so this doesn’t apply to him as much. However, if your dog doesn’t warm up to people very well, you will want to make sure your dog knows your temporary and permanent caregivers very well.
  • Do you have documentation that states who your pet should go to should something happen to you and your immediate family members? Also, when was the last time you updated that documentation? With the benefit of digital calendars these days, we really have no excuse. If you don’t have a reminder in your Google calendar now, I challenge you to take a moment to make a date and time to update your documentation (whether this is a will or a piece of paper with your signature). This update should include having a conversation with the person (or preferably people) who are in charge of your pet if something happens and see if they are still willing and able to take care of your dog.

So that’s all the information I have to share. Do you think this info can help you prepare? Are you prepared for your pet’s future already?

As always, I invite you to hop on over to Fidose of Reality to read Carol’s Dog Mom perspective on this topic.

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