Speaking of Pets: Addressing the uncomfortable question of who can take care of your pets if you no longer can | VailDaily.com

Speaking of Pets: Addressing the uncomfortable question of who can take care of your pets if you no longer can

By Joan Merriam
Special to the Daily
Using legal devices can help make sure your pets are taken care of, but ultimately, it's your responsibility to make sure they can get care.
Special to the Daily

It’s not something we like to think about: What happens if I die, or become so ill or debilitated that I can no longer live independently? 

Having a will or trust that outlines your wishes is great, but what about planning for your companion animals in the event of your death or incapacity? 

Most of us expect to outlive our pets, simply because their lifespans are so much shorter than ours. But accidents and unforeseen events do happen, and as the caretakers of our animals, we need to make sure they’re provided for if we can’t be there for them.

Have a plan 

The time to make these sorts of decisions is before you’re hit with something life-changing or life-ending. You could set up a trust or include instructions for the care of your pets in your will. You might also establish a special account with funds to care for your animals.

Know who can take your pet 

Talk to friends and family about who could adopt your pet if something happens to you, or find someone to act as an emergency caretaker. Carry a wallet “alert card” that lists what pets you have and who your emergency caretaker is. 

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Make sure that the caretaker has the contact information for your veterinarian, and permission to access to your pet’s health records. 

If you live alone

What if you live by yourself and either die or get hurt? Your pet will be left alone, with potentially tragic consequences. Again, plan in advance: talk with family, friends, or neighbors about what to do if they haven’t heard from you in a certain period of time, and make sure they have a key to your home. 

It’s your responsibility

In the end, however, nothing can ensure that your pet is fed, walked, medicated, or loved. As difficult as it is to think about the possibility of something happening that ends or drastically alters your life, the care of your beloved companions is your responsibility: you owe it to them to make sure their future is happy, safe and filled with love. 

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com.

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