Imagine what your pet's life would be without you around. Who would take care of them? Who will love them and can afford their care? How can you stop your pet from ending up at a shelter or being euthanized if you cannot care for them?
Over 500,000 pets are surrendered to shelters each year when their human can no longer care for them and no plan was in place for the animal's care. Most of these pets are euthanized. Euthanasia rates at shelters are often 98% of the animals who set foot in the shelter. Many NC shelters still inhumanely gas the animals to death. It's difficult to sit down and make plans for your pet, but it may be the only thing that keeps them from being euthanized at a shelter if anything should happen to you.
What not to do:
Do not assume that a friend or family member will take care of your pets. Virtually all of the requests for help that our rescue receives are from friends and family members who refuse to take responsibility for the deceased person's pet. If our rescue is unable to take the animal into our program then the next option the friend or family member sees is taking the animal to the shelter. Friends and family may verbally commit to help out but when the time comes, the looming responsibility and personal pressures in their lives usually prevent them from taking on pets who are not their own.
What to do:
Put a plan in writing - TODAY! If you have put off writing a Will because you were not worried about yourself and what happens to your possessions, stop and do it today for your pets. They give you all their love, unconditionally. Don't you think they deserve to be protected? Now is your chance to help keep them safe. There are attorneys who will do Will preparation for you (we are happy to give you a list or provide you with contact information for the local bar association) and Will forms can be purchased online (however we do not make any representations that any Will forms bought online or not done by a licensed attorney will be compliant with North Carolina law).
Plan for what happens to your animal on day 1 when you cannot care for them. Have a contact person who can care for them in an emergency and contact information for your vet. Make sure that information is posted at your home, is in your wallet and is known to persons who would be contacted if anything would happen to you. Set out a long term plan. Once your emergency caregiver is contacted - where will your pet go? If you are hospitalized, you may need a short term plan for care and a back up plan as well (ie. a boarding facility, pet sitter, boarding with your vet).
For long term care, you need to set out a person who is your emergency contact, will facilitate care for your pets immediately and also facilitate them going to where you have designated. You may want to have a rescue group designated and a back up rescue group as well. You will want to have funds set aside from your estate to assist in the care of your animals through to their adoption from the rescue group. Often people will have an immediate amount of money set aside for their executor to provide to help with care and then leave a portion of their estate. For more information on making a bequest, click here.
That helps the rescue group in the beginning when the likelihood for medical care is greatest, to be able to get the care and supplies needed to best provide for your pet. The funds down the road will help with any follow up needs for your animals as well as help the group continue to provide other animals with the same care and help place them in new forever homes.
It's important to communicate with a rescue group and a back up rescue group with information on your pets. Let them know that you are listing them as the rescue group to take on your pets should anything happen to you and tell them any financial arrangements that you have made. It is imperative for the rescue group to keep the possibility of the need for a place for your pets in mind and set aside funds for their care as well as to keep a list of foster homes at the ready.
Animals grieve and a foster home needs to be trained in what to do and what to watch for. A cat can stop eating and go into the start of liver failure in as short a period of time as 48 hours. The group will want details, details and more details about your pet and it's habits. So do include in your planning, communication with the rescue group you designate and with any back up rescue group.
What to document:
Medical information on your pet and contact information to your vet is important. Have a file for each pet and/or a list of specific care needed for them. Medication needs are of utmost important but don't forget to document things such as frequent illness, things to watch for, food likes, treats and quirks such as "Spot only eats in the kitchen and I have to be there petting him". You would not believe how much it will help the foster home and your pet to know what the usual routine is and what makes the animal happy and relaxed. Don't forget to document likes and dislikes that will help with placing your pet (once he or she is through grieving process and is ready to love again). Knowing if your pet likes kids, cats, other dogs, dog parks, car rides or really hates those things will allow the rescue group to make the best possible placement and ensure that your pet is happy, healthy and loved.