A Message from the Vet - April 2013
What Happens to Them When You're Gone?

Much of life works like we want when we make plans.

Stuff happens.

The responsible pet owner owes it to their animal to provide for them in the case of the owner's permanent absence. Society has safety nets for animals: friends, family, and shelters. On Oahu, an ownerless pet may be passed to a friend or relative, or may very well go to the Humane Society or another shelter. There, the future is uncertain and not easy: stress, exposure to contagious disease, and the possibly of being labeled "unadoptable" with an unfortunate end.

But, there are ways to make sure provision is made for your loyal and dependent cat, dog, bird, turtle, rabbit, sheep, pig, horse, or any of the myriad of creatures we domesticate and invite into our lives.

Family and friends can be asked if they would care for your pet in your absence. Financial arrangements should be discussed, as care and feeding of a pet can be costly. If you find agreement with a family member or a friend, have the two of you agree to put it in writing and add the papers to your will or your end of life documents. Guardianship or transfer of ownership is easy, inexpensive, and not iron-clad.

If a legal document is preferred, consider a will or a trust. Because wills can be take a long time to be implemented (probate), one should consider more appropriately a trust. Hawaii law provides for a trust to be made to support a pet. A trust is specific for who administers the trust and who the caregiver is. You may specify how much money is to be provided and for what purpose, who will take care of your pet, and where. A local attorney can be asked for help in drafting a simple trust for your pet's care. There are lawyers in Honolulu that have more experience than others, so inquire for some direction from your legal counsel. If you rely on a will to follow your wishes, so much time may pass prior to implementation, your pet may be history.

For more resources on planning for your pet's future or creating a trust for your pet, check out the following:
www.2ndchance4pets.org (non-profit organization, does not provide legal advice)
ASPCA's partnership with LegalZoom.com (provides legal advice and documentation for a fee)

It is comforting to know your pet will be cared for.

John Haddock, DVM

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Last updated 2014 May 10.