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Make provisions for your pets in case of emergency

American Kennel Club on

Published in Cats & Dogs News

Due to the unpredictability of COVID-19, some patients may need to be hospitalized, and this often occurs at a moment’s notice without the ability to properly prepare. This has made the consideration of making provisions for your pet ahead of an emergency a dreaded but needed discussion. As a responsible pet owner, you want to make sure that your beloved pet will continue to receive the best care possible should something unexpected happen to you.

Find at least two responsible friends or relatives who will agree to serve as temporary emergency caregivers if something unexpected happens to you. Provide them with keys to your home; feeding and care instructions; the name of your veterinarian; medications, prescriptions and directions; and any information about permanent care provisions you have made for your pet.

Decide whether you want all of your pets to go to one person, or whether different pets should go to different people. If possible, keep pets that have bonded with one another together. When selecting caregivers, consider partners, relatives and friends who have met your pet and have successfully cared for pets themselves. Also name alternate caregivers in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to take your pet. Discuss your expectations with potential caregivers so they understand the large responsibility of caring for your pet.

Stay in touch with the designated caregivers and alternates. Over time, people’s circumstances and priorities change. Make sure that the arrangements you have made continue to hold from the designated caregivers’ vantage points.

It's also possible to direct your executor or personal representative, in your will, to place the animal with another individual or family (that is, in a non-institutionalized setting). Finding a satisfactory new home can take weeks of searching, so again, it's important to line up temporary care. You also have to know and trust your executor and provide useful but not unrealistically confining instructions in your will.

Authorize your executor to expend funds from your estate for the temporary care of your pet and for the costs of looking for a new home and transporting the animal to it. The will should also grant broad discretion to your executor in making decisions about the animal and in expending estate funds on the animal’s behalf.

Legal will or trust

The best way to make sure your wishes are fulfilled is by making formal arrangements that specifically cover the care of your pet. It’s not enough that long ago your friend verbally promised to take in your animal or that you’ve left money to your friend for that purpose. An attorney will help you draw up a special will, trust or other document to provide for the care of your pet.


Before making formal arrangements to provide for your pet's care, seek help from professionals who can guide you in preparing legal documents to protect your interests and those of your pet. However, keep in mind the critical importance of making arrangements to ensure that your pet is cared for immediately if you die or become incapacitated. The formalities of a will or trust may not take over for some time.

A will takes effect only upon your death, and it will not be probated and formally recognized by a court until days or even weeks later. What’s more, if legal disputes arise, the final settlement of your property may be prolonged. Even determining the rightful new owner of your pet can be delayed. In other words, it may take a long time before your instructions regarding your pet’s long-term care can be carried out.

Unlike a will, a trust can provide for your pet immediately and can apply not only if you die, but also if you become ill or incapacitated. That’s because you determine when your trust becomes effective. When you create a trust for your pet, you set aside money to be used for his care, and you specify a trustee to control the funds.

Determining which type of will or trust is best for you and your pet depends on your situation. Seek the advice of an attorney who understands your desire to provide for your pet and can help create a will and/or trust that provides optimal care.

Power of attorney

Powers of attorney, which authorize someone else to conduct some or all of your affairs for you while you're alive, have become a standard planning device. Such documents can be written to take effect upon your physical or mental incapacity and to continue in effect after you become incapacitated.

Like any other legal device, however, powers of attorney are documents that by themselves cannot ensure that your pet is fed, walked, medicated or otherwise cared for daily. Legal devices can only complement your personal efforts in thinking ahead and finding caregivers who can take over your pet’s care immediately when the need arises. It's critical to coordinate, with more formal legal planning, your own efforts in finding substitute caregivers.

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