Pre-Arranged Care for One’s Pet following One’s Death / Disability
To ensure the ongoing care of one’s companion animal(s) after one dies or becomes disabled and can no longer care for a pet.
What will happen to your pet if you die or become unable to care for him/her? In some families, it is assumed that a spouse, partner, other relative or close friend will care for the animal. It may also be assumed that, upon the animal’s death, they will honor your wishes for a particular form of disposition. Yet assuming does not guarantee that your wishes will be carried out or that your pet will be cared for appropriately.
Some people may want to have their pet killed at the time of their own death for a variety of reasons:
- they don’t believe that anyone will properly care for their pet
- they doubt that their pet will behave with other people, and may be ‘put down’
- they are fearful that their pet will wind up at a shelter and killed, or adopted by a family who will be neglectful or worse
- they imagine that their pet will become so bereft as to lose the will to live
- they want to ensure that their pet’s cremains will be buried or scattered with their own.
We discourage such killings and urge people and communities to ensure that pets will continue to be well cared for.
Legal contracts, such as a Pet Trust, spell out the specific provisions of care for a pet upon the death or disability of the pet’s primary guardian (i.e., “owner”). A Pet Trust instructs the financial arrangements for that care, as well as for the conditions under which euthanasia may be provided, and the form of disposition upon the pet’s death.
Other options to help ensure the appropriate care include: honorary trusts, provisions in a will, and traditional legal trusts.
We encourage people to:
- Explore their options about the continued care for their pet.
- Discuss those options with the potential caregiver.
- Specify their wishes for the care of their pet in a legally-binding document.
- Ensure that there is a program in their area which helps arrange for the continued care of a pet.
- Support efforts to legalize conservation whole-family cemeteries.
- Providing for your pet’s future without you, by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), 2019; en español.
- Providing For Your Pets In The Event of Your Death or Hospitalization, by the New York City Bar – Committee On Animal Law, May 2016
- The Cinnamon Trust, UK – the only national charity in the UK “which seeks to relieve the anxieties, problems, and sometimes injustices, faced by elderly and terminally ill people and their pets”
- Pet estate planning: preparing your pets future without you, by American Veterinary Medical Association, November, 2001.
- Providing for Your Pet with a Trust, by Elderlawanswers, October, 2019.
- San Francisco SPCA – Sido Program
- North Shore Animal League – Safe Haven Surviving Pet Care
- Pet Peace of Mind – read article
updated July 2, 2021