Although we’d rather not think about it, part of responsible pet ownership is ensuring that your pet is cared for should something unexpected happen to you. Following is some information to kick-start your emergency plan.

Gather important paperwork

Collect important information about your pet and keep it all in one easy-to-access place. This includes:

  • Information about the care provisions you’ve made for your pet (name, contact number, etc. of a temporary caregiver)
  • Veterinarian’s Phone Number
  • Veterinary Records
  • Photo of Your Pet
  • Any other additional information or special instructions (type and quantity of food your pet eats, likes/dislikes, etc.)
  • If you have multiple pets, include information on which animals are particularly bonded to one another (or which ones tend to have spats with each other)

Enlist a friend… okay, two!

  • Identify at least two trusted relatives or friends that will agree to serve as temporary caregivers in the event something happens to you. Provide them with a copy of the important paperwork needed to know and care for your pet.
  • Make sure your neighbors, friends and relatives know how many pets you have and that they have the contact numbers of the individuals you’ve identified to serve as emergency caregivers for your pet.
  • Relationships and circumstances can change. Periodically revisit your emergency pet caregiver plan to ensure your pets are going to the right place, and that the caregivers you’ve selected, whether temporary or permanent, are in the position to take on the responsibility you’ve entrusted them to.

Spread the word

  • Carry an alert card in your wallet or on your keychain that lets responders know you have a pet at home and provides the contact information for your emergency pet caregivers.
  • Post “in case of emergency” notices on the doors and windows of your home that tell first responders the number and types of pets you have. Don’t forget to update your postings as the pets in your life change.

What if I can no longer keep my pet?

Aside from the tips above, it is also possible to direct your designated representative or estate executor to place your pet with the caregiver you have previously identified, another family, or with an animal shelter or rescue that you trust. Remember, finding a suitable new home can take several weeks, so again, it is important to line up temporary care. Review this plan with your attorney as you prepare your affairs.

You should also authorize your executor to expend funds from your estate for the temporary care of your pet as well as for the costs of looking for a new home and transporting the animal to it.

Can I put my pet in my will? You may include your pet in your will, but you cannot name your pet as a beneficiary because animals are legally defined as property. Creating a pet trust is a straightforward way to provide for your pet(s) in the event of your disability or death.

What is a pet trust? A pet trust is a legal agreement providing for the care and maintenance of pets in the event of its owner’s disability or death. The pet owner creates this trust, which may take effect during his/her life or at death. It is best for you to speak with an attorney to set up a pet trust.