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What Would Happen to Your Dog, If Something Happened to You?

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If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable; that it’s important to expect the unexpected; that we should plan for the best but be prepared for the worst. With that in mind, we should all have a plan to provide for our pets if we suddenly couldn’t.

What would happen to your dog if suddenly you were unable to provide for his or her care? Do you have a solid plan in place?

What Would Happen

We generally outlive our pets as they have a shorter life span than us. That’s why it is recommended that as responsible owners we plan ahead for our dog’s passing. However, what if the opposite happens? What if we become laid up, ill, or worse, die first? Who would give Fido home? Who would provide for his food, water, and vet care? Who would take care of him and love him?

Preparing for the Unexpected

To ensure that your beloved four-legged friend continues to receive adequate care in the event that you get seriously ill, meet a grave accident, or face death, it is critical that you plan and make arrangements in advance.

1. Call a friend. Find a few dependable friends or relatives who would be willing to serve as emergency caregivers should something unexpected happen to you. Provide them with keys to your home, feeding and pet care instructions, as well as the contact information of your vet.

2. Post notices. Aside from carrying an “alert” card in your wallet all the time, try posting removable “In case of emergency” signs on your windows or doors as well. This way, responding personnel during emergencies like fire or any other home disaster can be notified easily about the number and the kind of pets you have at home.

3. Make formal arrangements. Sometimes, it’s not enough that long ago a friend of yours has promised to take care of your pooch. To ensure that your plans to secure your dog when worse comes to worst are fulfilled, start making formal arrangements that will cover the sufficient care of your pet. Work with a lawyer to draft a special will, pet trust, or other document which draws the specific care and ownership of your dog as well as the amount needed to care for him.

According to AmericanBar.org, there are 3 documents to consider when planning for your dog in the event of your death.

The will is valid after death, and its purpose is to distribute property. The free-standing, traditional pet trust enlists a trustee who distributes funds and ensures that the person caring for a pet follows the owner’s instructions. The pet protection agreement is the layperson’s pet trust—an affordable, fill-in-the-blank, legally enforceable document.

Is designating a caretaker in my Will enough?

There are various kinds of wills and trusts, and choosing which is best for you and Fido basically depends on your situation and your pooch’s needs. It is highly recommended that you consult your lawyer first before making a decision.

What Would Happen

However, you should be aware that mentioning your pet in a will typically does not provide adequate protection for his or her care after your passing.

– Instructions in a will are not enforceable. Wills simply distribute property. For example, your will can designate your friend John to take custody of your dog, but it can not force John to then keep the dog, or provide necessary veterinary care. As soon as John takes custody, he can then do whatever he wishes (within the law) with your beloved pet.

– Wills are rarely, if ever, immediately enacted. Who will care for your pet during the waiting period between your passing and the reading of the will? Legal issues can hold up will probating for months, even years.

– Wills do not allow for planned monetary disbursements over your pet’s lifetime. A specific pet trust or pet protection agreement is the best way to disburse funds for your pet’s care.

– The courts can make changes to your will if they see fit.

– A will does not address potential issues with your designated caretaker in which he may not be suitable to care for your pet. For example, if you will your dog to John, but John later becomes unable to care for your dog, who, then, takes custody?

To absolutely ensure that your pet will be cared for according to your wishes, it is recommended that pet parents complete and file a Pet Protection Agreement. A simple, inexpensive, legally binding form can be found by clicking here.

So many of us view our pets as members of the family. So, in the same way that responsible parents plan ahead for the care of their children, should an accident or unforeseen illness occur, plans should also be put in place your furry family members.

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  1. Tammy Bemis in Eugene, Oregon
    October 23 at 7:52am
    Hi Everyone, This might not be a big suprise to most of you but I just got out of jail late last night after sitting in there for 17 days. When I got out I went to my car and found my dog of 13 years “Magic” was her name, dead and rotted inside my car. I got Magic 13 years ago when she could fit in the palm of one of my hands. She was brought into my place of employment by a homeless guy it was the runt of his dogs liter of pups and he was unable to find a home for her due to the fact her front laegs were deformed. He sat her on the floor in my work place and she would try to walk and her front legs would buckle up behind her back and she would fall flat on her face. I felt sorry for her so I took her home with me and took her to see a vet right away. The vet said that as far as they could tell without doing any expensive testing that she was born like that and not to get to used to her cause she wouldnt live past a year. I was working 2 full time jobs at the time and because she was not big enough to eat on her own I took her to both my jobs with me every day to feed and care for her until she could eat and get around on her own.
    Since then over the years I have become homeless off and on with Magic being of the most importance in my life making sure she was always taken care of and had a place to stay even if I didnt. She has always been an inside dog. I always made sure she had a warm place to be at night even if for a few times it was in my car with me where I could have the heater going for us.
    I recently bacame homeless again and I did not have a place for her to be so she had been sleeping in the car with me for a couple of nights. On the night of October 4th 2015 I had Magic in the car with me it was early morning on the 5th and I decided to ride my bike to 99 donuts for a maple bar so I had started the car warmed it up tucked Magic in with her blankets in the passanger seat shut the car off and told her I would be right back. I left on bike with windows up in the car cause it was still early morning very cold. The donut store was just down the road. Just before I get to the donut store I got stopped by the police cause they thought I was some one that was camped out in a back room of some house on Royal that some one had called to complain about. I told pollice this was not me but I did have warrants for my arrest. I told the police about my dog in my car gave them specific directions to where she was told them my mom just got a new phone number so wasnt positive what the number was but told them what I belived to be and begged them over and over to call the number and to locate my car if they would to let my dog out or let some one know to let her out. The police officer told me they would attempt to locate and try the phone number I gave them. I told them I would not be released soon from the jail this time on my charges and deeply expressed how important it was to get my dog out of the car and that once I was in jail I would not have any way of calling any one collect to let them know about my dog.
    I was realeased from jail late last night, 17 days later to find my dog dead in my car. As it turns out the phone number I gave to the police officer for my mom was the correct phone number for her.
    I admit I am not a perfect person I am a long time drug addict and user of meth and marijaunna but in Magics 13 years of her life I did the best I could to take care of her and she was never ever neglected in anyway even if it meant leaving her with some one else for awhile. I had warrants for drug delivery and possesion of meth and had expected to go to prison cause of last conversation I had with an attorney. But I do not believe that my criminal charges mean that it was ok to let Magic die this way in an unlocked car with the windows up with no food or water. I never ever once in her life left her in the car with the windows up when it was not freezing outside. I always let her out of the car if I had to and she would lay next to it waiting for me to come out of the store if I went into one or I would park in shade with all 4 windows down and sun shades in front and back windows and always with a big bowl of fresh water you can ask any one that knows Magic and me very well.
    I believe Eugene police are negligent in the death of Magic and hope that this is as heartbreaking to everyone else as it is to me and that this story gets out there and some thing can be done about it. If not and no one cares about the way Magic died and me finding her in my car in this state of being then I am sorry for wasting your time on reading this.
    Magic did not deserve to die this way. Thank You Tammy

  2. Avatar Of Paul Paul says:

    Might be worth checking out the service called IAMFINE.com. It does an automated daily call to a pet owner. If the owner fails to check in then it will alert the care circle (usually neighbors, vets, family or friends) by SMS, email or a call. It a great way to ensure your pets are taken care of, in the event something happens to you

  3. Avatar Of Frances



    In NC the law allows for a trust
    § 36C-4-408. Trust for care of animal.
    (a) Subject to this section, a trust for the care of one or more designated domestic or pet animals alive at the time of creation of the trust is valid.

    (b) Except as expressly provided otherwise in the trust instrument, no portion of the principal or income may be converted to the use of the trustee or to any use other than for the benefit of the designated animal or animals.

    (c) The trust terminates at the death of the animal or last surviving animal. Upon termination, the trustee shall transfer the unexpended trust property in the following order:

    (1) As directed in the trust instrument.

    (2) If the trust was created in a preresiduary clause in the settlor’s will or in a codicil to the settlor’s will, under the residuary clause in the settlor’s will.

    (3) If no taker is produced by the application of subdivision (1) or (2) of this subsection, to the settlor, if then living, otherwise to the settlor’s heirs determined as of the date of the settlor’s death under Chapter 29 of the General Statutes.

    (d) The intended use of the principal or income can be enforced by a person designated for that purpose in the trust instrument or, if none, by a person appointed by the clerk of superior court having jurisdiction over the trust upon application to the clerk of superior court by a person.

    (e) Except as ordered by the clerk of superior court or required by the trust instrument, no filing, report, registration, periodic accounting, separate maintenance of funds, appointment, bond, or fee is required by reason of the existence of the fiduciary relationship of the trustee.

    (f) A governing instrument shall be liberally construed to bring the transfer within this section, to presume against the merely precatory or honorary nature of the disposition, and to carry out the general intent of the settlor. Extrinsic evidence is admissible in determining the settlor’s intent.

    (g) The clerk of superior court may reduce the amount of the property transferred, if the clerk of superior court determines that the amount substantially exceeds the amount required for the intended use. The amount of the reduction, if any, passes as unexpended trust property under subsection (c) of this section.

    (h) If no trustee is designated or if no designated trustee agrees to serve or is able to serve, the clerk of superior court must name a trustee. The clerk of superior court may order the transfer of the property to another trustee, if required to assure that the intended use is carried out and if no successor trustee is designated in the trust instrument or if no designated successor trustee agrees to serve or is able to serve. The clerk of superior court may also make other orders and determinations as are advisable to carry out the intent of the settlor and the purpose of this section. (1995, c. 225, s. 1; 2005-192, s. 2; 2006-259, s. 13(b).)

  4. Avatar Of Amy



    I have a trust that outlines who should be awarded by pets in case I pas before they do.

  5. Avatar Of Debbie



    We recently made formal arrangements for our pets. The same attorney who helped us with our wills & estate planning, prepared the documents for our pets’ care should they outlive us. We set up a small trust fund to offset the expenses related to their ongoing care & designated a trusted friend as trustee. (NOTE: owners of purebreds bought from respected breeders should check with the breeder)

  6. Avatar Of Judy Johns

    Judy Johns


    2nd Chance 4 Pets is a wonderful nonprofit organization to help you plan. They have free resources at 2ndchance4pets.org.

  7. Avatar Of Amy



    I am the crazy dog lady there is a trust set up in my will funded by a life insurance policy, my vet currently has a power of attorney overy my living property (animals in nc are consider property) in the event that I get hurt or die and my attorney added a clause in my will that if my girls are taken to a government ran shelter instead of placed in a reputable rescue or re homed 100% of my estate is to go to the state of nc, including my home.

    • Avatar Of Frances



      Also have a trust set up for my animals in NC. Have a trusted friend who will make sure my animals are cared for and humanly euthanized at the vets office when it becomes necessary.

  8. Avatar Of Ellen



    One thing that I did not see mentioned is that if you got your pet from a breeder the contract may ask that the dog be returned to the breeder.

  9. Avatar Of Beth Albone

    Beth Albone


    Our daughter will inherit our house. She knows the animals come with it. Do we have to have something in writing?

    • Yes you should have something in writing stating what your wishes are regarding your animal (s) – hundreds of animals are killed everyday because “plans” were suppose to be followed, but since nothing was in writing, either the animal who might end up in someone else’s control (i.e. Animal Control if you died in your home or got very ill and had to be taken to hospital and no one would be left to care for the animals, then without a writing your family might be able to get animal back and it could be euthanized if it is taken to a shelter that kills animals.

  10. Avatar Of Dirk R Dirk R says:

    A nightmare! What can a person on very limited income do to protect their dogs?

    • Avatar Of Karolyn



      That is my problem. As I get older, I think more about things like that, especially since I live alone and don’t have a lot of friends or family and no family close by.

  11. Avatar Of Linda Cooper

    Linda Cooper


    I made my german shepherd a service and assistance dog and certified her so she would be wanted and get aher working need taken care of!

    • Avatar Of Jay



      That is a super idea,I have a bull terrier and often wonder what I would do if something happened to me.

    • Avatar Of Liz



      This doesn’t always work. service dogs are trained to work for its handler. After working with one handler for so long it isn’t easy for them to just switch.
      I have a service dog of my own that has saved my life more than once. HE is a great guy but that doesn’t mean that just anyone, or that I would want just anyone to take him.

  12. Avatar Of Lisa Yates

    Lisa Yates


    My three dogs each have “Dogparents” who have agreed to care for them in case of my untimely demise. Each animal and “Dogparent” my will states that each dog will receive funds for care from my estate. My worst nightmare is that my well loved babies would end up in bad home or shelters. Hopefully, my forethought will prevent such a tragedy from occurring.

    • Did exactly the same.

    • think of talking to whomever did your will to get them to create a Pet Trust to accomplish transfer of the pets to the pet parents – rather than through your will. A will must be probated through the court, paying filing fees and getting a judge to issue an Order appointing rights to the Personal Representive – this often can take weeks; in the mean time where’s the animal? A trust gives your alternate Trustee immediate rights upon your death to act; without the Courts involvement and requirement to pay filing fees. Go to LadyLawyersFLA.com for more information.

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