A few months ago, my human mom died suddenly, leaving me all alone. I really miss Mom; she loved me so much and took great care of me. Her sister picked me up and took me to live with her and her two little kids. The short story is this: they are not dog-people.
They live in an apartment and complain when they have to take me for walks to do my business. Now their doctor says one of the kids has asthma and that my fur makes it hard for her to breathe. I’m so scared that they’ll take me to the pound, and nobody will want me because I’m not a cute, cuddly puppy. Is there anything that can be done to help pets like me when our humans are no longer around for us?
You know what they say, “Where there’s a Will, there are relatives.” That doesn’t mean they’ll take the pets.
The average human’s lifespan is greater than that of their dogs, cats, or other common pets. Logically, most humans assume they will outlive their pets and make no provisions for pet care in their absence.
Many believe a friend or family member will step up to take care of us should they cross over the Rainbow Bridge first. Unfortunately, that assumption has cost the lives of many a pet left behind.
Well-intended humans who do plan ahead for children and property often fail to adequately address their pet family members when creating a will. Pet lovers would never think of us as property; we’re part of their families! However, in the eyes of the law, pets are property. Even if your humans name someone in their will as your caregiver, the legal system can take months or even years to sort out estates, sending you to the local animal control facility rather than turning you over to your intended guardian. And we don’t want to discuss what fate could await you there!
Death is not the only tragedy that can befall a pet parent. Your owner may be in an accident or become so ill that they cannot express their wishes for your care. The cold hard fact is once your owners are out of the picture, they have no control over what happens to their beloved pets unless they have taken careful action in advance.
Texas attorney and pet lover, Kathryn M. Kollmeyer, says there are several ways to protect pets when their owners become incapacitated. The easiest is to create a Power of Attorney for Pet Care and a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. (Pretty big words, eh?)
They kick in when the pet owner specifies or if they become either mentally or physically unable to maintain your care. These documents lose their power, though, upon the pet owner’s death. To protect you after they’ve died, pet owners can create an inter vivos trust. Its legal power starts as soon as it’s created, BEFORE the owner dies, as opposed to a trust that becomes effective upon their death.
All this legal mumbo-jumbo can be confusing and potentially expensive. There are less costly ways to ensure your pet’s welfare. Ken Sipes founded Trusted Pet Partners along with two friends who wanted to offer an easy, affordable way to create a Pet Care Trust for concerned pet owners. They recognized that too frequently the good intentions of pet parents are ignored or misunderstood by our legal system. Check out their web page, www.trustedpetpartners.com, for helpful information.
LegalZoom.com offers a Pet Protection Agreement® created by animal law attorney, Rachel Hirschfeld, which does not require preparation by an attorney. Also, the Humane Society of the United States provides a downloadable brochure, “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You” at no charge on their website.
Keep in mind that this column is written by a highly-intelligent dog, not a lawyer, so please consult an attorney to determine what method is best for your situation.
Good luck to you, William. I hope your new family eventually learns to love you as much your person did.
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