Planning for your Companion Animals' Care
A Companion Animal Care Article from

FROM Diane Venberg, Flower Feline Sanctuary
April 2021

Your companion animals rely entirely on you, and with proper planning you can be sure that their quality of life can continue in case you cannot be there for them.

Flower Feline Sanctuary

It’s a difficult subject to think about - what would happen to your beloved companion animals if you died or were incapacitated and unable to care for them? If you have not already made arrangements, doing some research and formalizing plans for your companion animals can help put your mind at ease.

First, place an "in case of emergency" card in your wallet, stating whom to contact if you are unable to make it home. This person should live relatively close by, have your house key/alarm code, and be comfortable with your pets. Your pet sitter may be a good choice. Feeding/medication schedules, and veterinarian information should be easily found in your home.

Your next steps might be to discuss where your animals would live with if something happens to you or both you and your spouse/partner/housemate. Far too many animals end up being dropped off at a shelter because a person dies and the relatives feel overwhelmed or simply don’t want the responsibility of an inherited pet. Some shelters take back any animal they’ve adopted out if the guardian dies, with no surrender fee. Know that some shelters, such as a municipally-contracted facility that is legally bound to take in any animal from a specific county or city, might find it impossible to place a senior animal or one has health or behavior challenges and would end up euthanizing the animal. If you’ve adopted your companion animals from a shelter, ask what their policy is and document this information for your executor.

Consider leaving an amount in your will to help care for your animals after your death but keep in mind that it can take months for a will to be implemented. Also, if a very large sum is left for the animal caregiver, it may be contested by relatives. Pet trusts are legal in Washington State and the funds can be available if you are incapacitated. With a pet trust, a trustee oversees the care and use of funds provided, while the caregiver is ideally a different person who simply cares for the animals. In naming a caregiver and a trustee, it’s wise to have two if not three persons named and to update this information periodically since relationships and life circumstances change over time. Trusts can be used for any animals you might have at the time of your death. Naming a caregiver in your life insurance policy or a portion of investment funds is also an option.

Some shelters offer a “Guardian Program” even if you didn’t adopt your animal at their shelter. This program ensures that your animals would be cared for immediately upon your death, either at the shelter or in a foster home, until they are adopted into a new home. For a one-time fee of $1,000.00 (which may be paid in installments), an individual or family can enroll as members in the program. The membership covers up to five animals, remains in effect during the lifetime of the enrollee, and includes any animals a member has at the time of their death. Your pet receives an ID number and contact information to be kept with your important papers.

Your companion animals rely entirely on you and with proper planning, you can be sure that their quality of life can continue in case you cannot be there for them.


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