Americans love their pets, so is it surprising that we spend $61 billion-plus every year on pets? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend an average of $500 per household on their pets. Topping the list are married people without children at home who spend an average of $698.
Much as we love our pets, we often forget about their care should we go over the “rainbow bridge” before them. Not possible? Too young to die? You only need to read the obituaries to know that’s not true.
So what to do? Here are a few tips and online resources to get you started.
* Short-term care: Find two or more responsible people who will provide temporary emergency care for your pet. Give them keys to your home, feeding and care instructions and your veterinarian’s contact information. These emergency pet caregivers should know how to contact each other.
Keep an “alert card” in your wallet listing contact information for pet caregivers. Post removable emergency notices on doors or windows to alert emergency-response people about your pets and the names and phone numbers of these caregivers.
* Long-term or permanent care: Have an estate attorney help you create a will, trust or other document to transfer pet ownership and the money required to care for your pet. If you have more than one pet, determine whether the pets go to one or more people. Be sure to authorize your executor to expend estate funds for temporary pet care and the transport of your pet to its new home.
Wills only take effect when you die, not when you are incapacitated. Also, it can take weeks or much longer for probate and formal recognition by a court to execute a will. Trusts can provide immediate pet care whether you die or become ill or incapacitated.
Wills and trusts can be complex, so be sure to consult an attorney who knows how to include pets in wills and trusts to see what options are best for you and your pet.
Online resources: “Providing for Your Pet’s Future Without You,” Pet Trust Primer, In Pets We Trust, California Pet Trust Probate § 15212: http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stuscaprob15212.htm
Happy Tails: German shepherd Maico, aka Mojito, and Rottweiler/Lab mix Sadie are two bonded senior dogs whose owner died with instructions for them to be euthanized upon his death. Fortunately, Hopalong and Second Chance Animal Rescue in Oakland was contacted instead. Within 24 hours of sending out an appeal, attorney Rick Amorose and his wife Nan Guevara had adopted the dogs.
As an estate attorney who specializes in pet wills and trusts, Rick is familiar with the plight of pets whose owners have died. After losing their 14-year-old Lab last summer, Rick and Nan were ready for some canine companionship. Rick writes, “A friend of Nan’s at work told her about two dogs whose owner left instructions for them to be put down and cremated upon his death. It didn’t take long for us to agree that these two could fill the dog deficiency in our house.”
Hopalong arranged a “meet and greet” at Rick and Nan’s house. Rick reports, “The dogs made themselves at home. … We have a single-family house in Elk Grove with a grassy and fenced back yard. … It didn’t take the dogs long to figure out the dog door and pretty soon they were going back and forth.
“We are getting to know one another and have found out that they both love riding in the car. They bark at every doorbell but leave off on command.”
— Evelyn Dale of Davis is a volunteer and advocate for shelter animal welfare. Contact her at [email protected]. This column publishes monthly.