What Happens If Your Pets Outlive You

Pets play an important role in the lives of the people who love them. We get great pleasure from them and they depend on us for love and daily care. So what happens if your pet outlives you?

  • Who will keep him in the loving atmosphere you created for him?
  • Who will make sure she is fed her favorite food?
  • Who will take him to the vet and ensure he gets special treatment and care if needed?
  • Who will take her for a walk and out for play dates?
  • Will he end up being taken to animal control and euthanized because nobody adopted him?

Sadly, most people have not thought much about the fate of their pets in the event of a tragedy. For once-loved pets, the results can be sad and painful. Here at Nevada Humane Society and other animal shelters, a steady flow of pets come in whose owners have died.

If a pet owner has not made arrangements for the care of their pet, the pet is at risk of becoming homeless, and sadly for some, that ends in death. Assuming that friends or relatives will step in to provide a home for your pet, puts your pet in danger. By making arrangements in advance and putting these in writing, you can protect your pet from an uncertain future.

The most reliable method to provide for a pet that outlives you is to create an enforceable trust that will require distributions to a designated human beneficiary to cover the pet’s expenses while at the same time requiring the beneficiary to take proper care of the pet.

You will need a lawer to assit you in drafting the trust, as pets are not allowed legal standing. So selecting the right human beneficiary and a lawyer who can help ensure that your plans are carried out are the two most imporatnat decisions you will make to safeguard the well-being of your pet into the future.

Another option is finding an animal sanctuary, shelter, or pet retirement home and making them the designated beneficiary who will be responsible for the care of your pet. It is always wise to visit the facility in person to be sure that it meets your standards. You will also want to ask questions, including:

  • Will they adopt the pet out? What are their adoption policies?
  • Will they provide lifetime care in their facility?
  • What is their euthanasia policy?
  • What kind of daily care and veterinary care is provided?
  • How much individual human attention will the animal receive?

At Nevada Humane Society, we seek new homes for pets who are orphaned by their people and provide care until an appropriate home can be found. Other shelters have similar programs available; some organizations offer lifetime care in their facility, but do not do adoption. You will want to check out the various options and decide what is best for you and your pet.

If you select an individual instead of an organization, you should name several alternate caretakers should your first choice be unable to serve for the duration of the pet’s life. It is often a good idea to authorize the trustee to select a good home for the pet should none of the named individuals be willing or able to accept the animal.

The pet owner should compute the resources necessary to care for the animal. The animal’s life expectancy, the standard of living the owner wishes to provide for the animal, and the need for potentially expensive medical treatment will be among the factors to consider.

You will also want to consider your individual pet’s preferences. Particularly with older pets, finding a situation that will provide the pet with a good quality of life is important. Often, older cats or dogs find change stressful and adjustment to a new environment can be difficult for them. Finding a new person to care for older pets in a home environment is usually a far better option than life in even the nicest of facilities.

There are several wonderful resources available for pet owners who want to learn more about making plans in case their pets outlive them. A search online will turn up helpful websites and you may also want to read When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die by David Congalton.

The most important thing is to not put off planning for your pet’s future. After all, tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.


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