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Pets 101

How To Care For Your Pet In The Event You Become Incapacitated

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Each of us, no matter how healthy or how young, should make plans for what happens to our pets in the event we become unable to take care of the pet even for a short period of time.  If you don't provide for your pets, they could be sent to a shelter or possibly put to sleep.  (For information about what to do now in case you die, click here.)

Think about who should care for them, and how their care will be paid for.

Make arrangements for someone to take possession of your pet immediately. Let that person know about your pet's special needs as well as contact information for your veternarian.

  • Choose a caregiver or caregivers - preferably people your pet is familiar with and who know how to take care of the animal. Give the person a key or other means of getting into your home "just in case." 
    • Once you set the caregiver, keep track in your pet's file of the names of the people who volunteer to take care of your pet in case something happens to the primary caregiver or he or she can no longer take care.
  • If you can't find a person, look for a local organization that can help. For example:
    • Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) is a non-profit that started in San Francisco to help people with HIV/AIDS when they cannot care for a pet. ( offsite link) PAWS has expanded to help people with other life-changing conditions. There may be a local chapter in your area. 
    • Your religious organization
    • A local disease specific non-profit organization
    • Your state Elder Care Agency may be able to help. You can locate your state's agency at offsite link Click on "State councils".
    • DogVacay offsite link connects pet hosts with pet owners who need some to care for their dogs . Hosts receive compenstion. DogVacay receives a percentage of the payment.
  • Write a set of instructions for the pet's daily and other care. 
    • Include your pet's feeding and walking schedule, your vet's 24/7 contact information and the location of your pet's medical records, food, and leash. 
    • Also include instructions what you want to happen to the pet if the pet has a life threatening emergency -- much like the way you should prepare an advance healthcare directive for yourself. What would be the guiding principles you would use about your pet?
  • Provide for money to be given to the person who cares for your pet if your incapacity continues beyond a few days.  Consider setting up a joint bank account with the person. The money can be accessed by the person immediately. Be sure to pick a person you trust because he or she could remove the money and it would be a while before you find out.
  • Ask your veterinarian what you need to do to give the caregiver authority to make a decision in case you cannot be reached.

NOTE:  One way to find a professional pet sitter is through the web site: offsite link.  Enter your zip code, the type of service you need and the dates during which you need the service.

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