Our pets are family members. They are also very vulnerable to changes in family situation. Just like other family members, they deserve consideration when you are planning for the future.
- Have the conversation. Regardless of your age, if you have a pet, you should always consider what would happen if you were gone. If you have a spouse or partner, what would happen if the two of you were deceased at the same time? It is worth discussing with the family members in your home, and talking to the potential guardians for your pet.
- If you have several pets, it can be a more difficult situation. Family or friends may be willing to take one cat, for instance, but not 7. However, you may have 7 people who are willing to take one each. Take the time to ask and keep a written summary of who has agreed to do what.
- You can put your wishes into your will. If you do have arrangements made for your pets, it is worth putting into your will. Your will has legal authority. In order to keep your will from getting outdated, you can keep the language general. For instance, “I leave any pet(s) that I may own at the time of my death to Jane Doe. If Jane Doe is unable to take them, it is my desire that either John Smith or Bill Jones do so.” Or, you can specifically ask your Executor to make arrangements for your pet if you trust him/her to do so responsibly. In the event that more than one person wants the pet, putting your wishes in your will can settle the dispute.
- You can write a letter and sign it. Another option is to write a letter, date it and sign it and keep it with your will or your important papers. It won’t have the legal authority of a will, but it can guide your family as to what to do with your pet.
- Animal Rescue Groups. Some animal rescue groups may let you make arrangements in advance or may have policies about taking certain types/breeds of animal. Some groups, such as Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue will take a hound back if she was adopted from HBHR and the owner has passed. Other groups may help place animals whose owners have passed.
- Facility home through endowment. The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at Texas A & M has a program that can provide lifetime care for a pet through enrollment and an endowment. If you have the financial means to afford this type of plan you can be assured that you are helping your own pet, as well as others.
- Reciprocal plans. Have a friend or neighbor that is in the same situation? You can agree to take his/her pets in exchange for a promise of the same.