Owners need plan in place for pets once they’re gone

So often, I hear of pets losing their homes because the owner dies or has to go into an assisted living home. Care becomes too great for the senior owner.

In any case, the pet, who is also often in its senior years, quickly loses the only home it has ever known.

We recently lost a very dear member of our extended family. Aside from his wife, children and grandchildren, his dog was his life. He doted on her as much as he did his own children even dressing her in a matching rain jacket and hat for walks in inclement weather. Wherever he went, she went. Now that he is gone, his wife is left to not only mourn the loss of her husband but assume the full care of their dog — which really was his dog.

I begin to wonder what plans people have in place should they become unable to care for their pets, and it makes me realize neither my husband nor I have done more than just discuss the topic.

A few months ago, a co-worker told the story of a lady she had befriended who had a terminal illness.

Because she was not close with any of her own family, the lady fretted for the well-being of her three cats once she was gone. She had the foresight to include provisions in her will that gave my co-worker the ability to access her home and care for her pets once she was gone, as well as find them a new home where they would be loved and cared for on her terms and conditions.

This was a hefty request to place on anyone, but my co-worker, who already cares for many stray cats, took her task in stride.

The women had made provisions that the family could not sell her home until her cats were re-homed. My co-worker fed the cats daily and checked on their well-being while she quickly worked to find a new home for all three.

She even saw to it that the cats received veterinary care before they were adopted as she did while the lady was becoming too ill to care for them

herself.

This was such a selfless gift my co-worker gave to this lady. I wonder how many other people think to make provisions — especially in their wills — to ensure their pets are cared for the way they would want them to be cared for?

A good friend of ours rescues dogs and recently took in a senior dog whose owner was placed in an assisted living home.

This senior dog will be sure to continue to get the best of everything now that he is in our friend’s foster care, including a new home where he will be doted on and loved.

Making provisions for your pets if you are no longer able to care for them is as essential a task as feeding and walking your pet, I’m beginning to learn.

In Pennsylvania, a person can’t legally leave money to a pet in a will because animals “are not people, they are tangible property” or so says the state.

However, in 2006, Pennsylvania adopted the Uniform Trust Act, a section of which allows people to create a financial trust for their animals. A friend or relative can be designated to care for a pet, using money left in the trust. Talk to your financial adviser for the up and down side to doing this.

Do-it-yourself wills that state your wishes on who will care for your pet are enforceable, but be careful with such wills as you could leave something important out of it if you’re not using the help of a professional.

A number of hospice facilities are starting to cater to patients with pets, but the number is still few. People are realizing how important pets are and how important they can be to someone who is at the end stage of life, providing comfort and love.

Some people mentioned to me about leaving a large sum ($5,000 donation) to a no-kill animal shelter or rescue organization in exchange for the organization caring for the person’s pets should they pass away or become too ill to care for their pets.

This is a great option especially since it’s often too much to ask of a family member or friend for that matter on top of all the other responsibilities that accompany closing the final chapter of someone’s life.

My husband and I? We’ve got a lot of work to do!

Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode is the author of “Have Dog Will Blog,” editor of the Central PA Pets magazine and director of the Central PA Pet Expo. She can be contacted at ahanna

@altoonamirror.com or by mail: Paws and Reflect, c/o Amy J. Hanna-Eckenrode, Altoona Mirror, 301 Cayuga Ave., Altoona, PA 16602.

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