How often do we leave our companion animals home alone, never stopping to consider what would happen to them if something unexpected happened to us?

Circumstances may be such that we're unable to get home to water, feed or take out our pets. What would happen to your pet, for example, in the event that you suddenly become ill or incapacitated, are in an accident, are hospitalized, are placed in a long-term care facility, or die?

Providing for your pets in your absence is an important part of responsible pet ownership, especially if you're elderly or if you live alone.

What You Can Do to Provide for Your Pets

  • Place a sticker on your home's front door or window to inform firefighters, police or emergency medical technicians that you have pet(s) inside. Include the type of pet (cat, dog, bird, etc.), how many, and where the pet(s) can be taken in case of emergency.

  • Make certain that at least one of your neighbors knows what you want to do about your pet(s) if something happens to you or you're unable to get home.

  • Designate a friend or relative who's willing to become your pet's caretaker in your absence. Be sure this caretaker has access to your home (a key to your house or apartment), knows what type and number of pets you have and their names, and knows your veterinarian's name, address and phone number. (If friends or relatives aren't willing or available, you can arrange in advance for a local animal shelter to take your pet, along with a donation to cover expenses, until your pet can be placed in another home. If your animal is a of a particular breed, a breeder or rescue service for that breed may be of help to you.)

  • Carry a wallet-sized card with you that lists your pets by type and name, where they are and who should care for them (including name, address and phone number) in case of an emergency. (Such wallet alert cards are available from the Companion Association of Arizona, Inc., P. O. Box 5006, Scottsdale, AZ 85251-5006, Telephone 602-258-3306.)

  • Add an amendment (a "codicil") to your will that specifies the arrangements you've made for your pet's comfort and care, and give a copy to your pet's designated caretaker. For further information, including sample will provisions, see Providing For Your Pets in the Event of Your Death or Hospitalization, published by The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, Committee on Legal Issues Pertaining to Animals, Office of Communications, 42 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036-6690, telephone (212) 382-6690. 
  • Gather all your pet's important papers together, and send copies to your pet's designated caretaker. Include your pet's type, breed, sex, birth date, description, license number, photograph, certificates of registration and pedigree if any, medical history and record of vaccinations. Add any special instructions such as diet, favorite treats and toys. State what you'd like done with your pet's body after death.

What will happen to your pet if you do not plan for the future? Sadly, in the confusion that accompanies your sudden illness, incapacity, hospitalization or death, your beloved companion could be overlooked or forgotten, or even taken to an animal shelter to be adopted or euthanized. It doesn't have to be that way.

Copyright by Martha M. Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC    All rights reserved

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