It may be difficult, but thinking about what will happen to your pets if something ever happens to you could end up saving their lives. Often when someone passes away, their pets fall to the back burner. If a family member or friend doesn’t step up to take on the pet, the animal will end up in an animal shelter.

After the September 11 attacks on New York City, for example, over 800 animal were left homeless. An estimated 100,000 to 500,000 end up at shelters due to losing their guardian each year. With the high volume of animals at many shelters, these once loved companions and family members may not find another home. This is especially true for older pets.


There are, however, a few steps you can take to ensure that this doesn’t happen to your pets if something unfortunate were to occur to you.

Finding a New Guardian

The least complicated, and most necessary, method of making arrangements for your pets is by simply talking everything over with trusted family members or friends. Find out who would be willing to take your dog or cat if something were to happen to you and make sure they are committed to being the caregiver to your pet. You can even consider talking to pet sitters and vets if you are having trouble finding someone else to agree.

Although most people won’t want to discuss the possibility at first, make sure to stress the importance of the situation. If you can, get the commitment in writing to ensure this friend or family member takes the situation and your pet’s future seriously. And don’t settle for only one option. Make sure you have at least one other person willing to step up as an “understudy.”

Pets and Estate Planning

Many more pet parents are establishing pet trusts and writing their plans for pets in their will. These legal arrangements provide for the care of the animals as well as finances to aid in that care. There are a few simple steps in coming up with this type of trust. It is easiest to complete this with an attorney, but you can also do it yourself if necessary.


  1. After identifying a trustee and a primary and secondary caregiver, you need to make sure your pet is identified in a way that will prevent fraud. A microchip, for example, would be an easy way to identify your pet.
  2. Compile a list of pet care instructions. This should include the type of food your pet eats, medical records, health issues, exercise routines and if certain bonded pets need to remain together.
  3. Make arrangements for regular check-ins by the trustee.
  4. Provide the funding for the care of your pet in the form of a pet trust.

If you are unable to find someone willing to take your pet, there is the option of using a service that will place your pet in a good home.

Other Options

If you don’t want to go the pet trust route when planning for emergencies, there are other options as well. You can have a Conditional Bequest, where you leave your pet and the money to care for them to a caretaker, in a will. You can also grant a Third Party Power of Attorney to someone. This will allow that person to make decisions regarding your pet in case of an emergency or sudden illness.

After making plans for your pet, make sure the information is somewhere safe and identifiable. Going through the trouble of making plans for your pets does no good if no one can find the plans. At the very least you should make sure you have identified someone who is willing to step up and provide care to your animals in the case of an emergency. Even just promising to keep them out of a shelter is better than no planning at all. If you want more information on planning is your pet outlives you, visit 2nd Chance 4 Pets, a website dedicated to helping people plan for their pets outliving them. A few minutes of planning could save your best furry friend from a lonely life after you’re gone.

Image Source: Flickr/fotografierenderpunk