Ask Joyce: Who Will Care For My Pets When I Die?Posted by Joyce Tischler, ALDF's Founder and General Counsel on April 1st, 2009
ALDF's "Ask Joyce" column appears in each issue of The Animals' Advocate, ALDF's quarterly publication.
I’m worried about who will care for my cats, Bob and Alice, when I die. My family is gone, and I have no friends who can take care of them. What do I do?
It’s time for some planning. In a previous Ask Joyce column, I addressed the subject of creating a trust for your companion animal. Today, let’s focus on the actual day-to-day care of Bob and Alice when you can’t be physically present for them—for example, if you have to be hospitalized for some reason, or if you die without a will (which I hope you will not do!), or even if you have provided for Bob and Alice in your will but didn’t prepare instructions for their care during the period of time between when you die and when your will is admitted to probate.
First and foremost, there has to be some other human being who will take physical custody of Bob and Alice, even on a temporary basis. This could be a neighbor you trust or your veterinarian. Or, start hanging out at the local dog park and get to know the dogs owners, volunteer at the library, join a club or a church—make contact with caring humans and, for Bob and Alice’s sake, form a relationship to help you plan for their future. Develop a very specific set of written instructions about all aspects of your cats’ care: their names, physical descriptions, ages, temperaments, foods and feeding times, medications, special needs, identification of veterinarians and health records, everything that the caregiver would need. If the caregiver is not willing to take permanent custody of Bob and Alice, ask if they are willing to place them into a good permanent home and describe what sort of home you want for them.
If you cannot find an individual caregiver, you may want to contact a humane society or nonprofit animal protection group to provide care for your cats. Do research on the internet. Then, take great care to visit the facility and find out what the care is going to be like; avoid a situation in which there is overcrowding, or your cats will be confined to a cage for long periods of time. I do not recommend having your cats killed when you die—there are far better solutions, and they deserve a chance at a new, loving home.
There is a lot to think through to protect Bob and Alice—a will, a durable power of attorney, a trust and the actual hands on care. You can also read "Including Animals in Your Will" for more information on this subject.