What if sudden, unexpected circumstances beyond your control were to prevent you from caring for your pet? You could be in a car accident, have a health emergency or pass away. The caretaking need could be temporary or permanent. Even if you’ve planned for your pets in your estate planning documents, there would be an immediate need for their care as soon as you are unable to do so yourself. It could take anywhere from a couple of days to several weeks or months before the agents named in your estate documents are aware of their responsibilities and are able to take action. Who would care for your pet in the interim? Here we share simple, important steps to take to ensure your pets are cared for.
Choose a Temporary or Emergency Caregiver
Designate a person you trust to be an emergency caregiver, even if they could only take care of your pet temporarily. Consider someone who lives close to your residence and provide them with a set of keys to your home. Ideally have them meet your pet and show them where you keep basic supplies so that in an emergency they know what to do.
Communicate That You Have Pets
An ICE or “In Case of Emergency” contact is a phone number that you designate in your cell phone to be called should you be in a crisis. Make sure the emergency caregiver you have selected is listed as an ICE. You can also keep a “My pets are home alone” card in your wallet or buy a special keychain.
Place rescue alert stickers in visible locations on the doors and windows of your home alerting emergency personnel that there are pets indoors. Include the types and numbers of pets in your home.
Keep Instructions Easily Accessible
Compile a list that includes the contact information for your emergency caregiver, veterinarian, pet sitter or dog walker and where to find care instructions. If you adopted your pet from a rescue group, their contact information should be added as well. Post the list on your refrigerator as first responders and emergency medical staff will often check the refrigerator for medication lists and DNR orders.
Keep detailed care instructions for each pet you own in folders nearby.
- Label the front of each folder with the name, species, age of your pet(s), along with any critical medical needs noted prominently (such as daily required insulin injections for diabetes). Include a picture for easy identification.
- Keep a list of detailed care instruction for that pet inside their folder. Include your pet’s feeding schedule, any medical conditions and where any necessary medication is kept, bathroom schedule, exercise instructions, favorite toys and activities, personality traits, likes and dislikes, any quirks, or fears, and how they get along with young children and other pets. Include any microchip information in this folder as well. Be specific and list everything that you would tell a prospective caregiver about your pet if you were able to speak with them personally.
- There will likely be special considerations, equipment and instructions for animals such as horses, birds, fish, reptiles or small mammals.
- Once again, list the important contacts for your pet in this folder: Veterinarian, pet sitter, dog walker, their rescue group of origin, if applicable, and a close family member, neighbor, or friend who can serve as the pet’s emergency contact. While these latter individuals might not necessarily be available to take custody of your pet, they can serve as a liaison and advocate for your pet.
The most important thing to do is to have this essential contact information and detailed care instructions written down and easily accessible. Even if you don’t have a plan yet in place for the future care of your pet, you should compile this information about your pet to be shared with others in case of an emergency. If your pet should end up in a shelter, even if only temporarily until you or your proxy can pick them up, this information will make a big difference. Should your pet need to go to a temporary foster home, or to a new permanent home, your care instructions will help make any placement in a new home more successful and your pet’s adjustment less stressful.
If you have included your pet in your estate plan, these same care instructions can also serve as your pet’s care plan, and can be referenced in your estate documents. For more information please see Estate Planning for Your Pets.
SageVest Wealth Management considers all aspects of financial planning, including estate planning, college savings, and retirement goals. Our advisors focus on each client’s individual needs and objectives, and tailors their planning accordingly. For more information, we invite you to contact us.