Severe weather may be what you are used to, depending on which part of the country you reside. Even so, our entire country has been getting a taste of unexpected extreme weather in the last few years. When sever weather hits and devastates an area, like Hurricane Katrina, pet owners have an added burden of trying to save their pets, as well. If you and your family are scrambling to find shelter, what will happen to your pets? It is important to have an emergency plan, not just for ourselves, but for our pets, too. If you haven’t included disaster planning in your pet estate plan yet, you should.
“Include a disaster plan,” –says the ASPCA
The ASPCA, an organization well-known for rescuing animals nationwide, agrees that every pet owner needs to create both a disaster plan and an estate plan that includes their pets. If you are ever faced with an unforeseen event in your area, or your pet outlives you and needs to be cared for by someone else, arrangements are already in place. The ASPCA estimates that close to 100,000 pets will be placed in shelters this year because their guardian either passed away or has become unable to care for them. But what happens when you lose your home, due to a devastating weather event? Or if you simply need to seek shelter until the storm passes? What happens to your pet?
Why disaster planning is so crucial
While more than 50% of all American households have a family pet of some kind, at least 5 million pets are surrendered to shelters every year. Of that number, close to 4 million end up being euthanized because they could not find a suitable home. Most of these surrendered pets are the result of owners who failed to plan for their care, after the owner’s death. If you have children, you recognize the importance of appointing a guardian to step in upon your death. The same should be done for your pets.
What many pet owners do not realize is that, under the law, pets are property, unlike your children. If you do not have a plan for your children, the court will look out for their best interests regardless. The same is not true for a pet. Without legally enforceable instructions, your pet may simply be surrendered and forgotten.
Providing protection for your pet in case of an emergency
In addition to planning for your pet’s care after your death or incapacity, you need to plan for an unexpected emergency, as best you can. The first basic step is to keep an “”animal card” in your wallet or purse, providing the basic information about your pet. This way, if you are ever involved in an accident, for instance, first responders will be aware that there is an animal somewhere relying on your care. The card should include basic information such as your pet’s name, type of animal, where it is kept and any special care instructions. Most importantly, include an emergency contact, someone who can gain access to the animal in case of an emergency. Your emergency contact can then be notified, so your pet will be cared for until you are able to return.
If you have questions regarding disaster planning, or any other pet estate planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (301) 337-7696.