Who Will Care for Your Dogs?
by Liz A. Duncan-Burge NBRF Secretary/Treasurer
I have been a deputy sheriff in southern Illinois for nearly twenty-two years and have also been the executor or co-executor of several estates that have included animals. I am also the emergency contact for several people who have animals. I am not an attorney, but I have experience on how to get help to your animals in the most expeditious way.
Who Are Your Emergency Contacts?
Many people have ICE (In Case of Emergency) contacts in their phones. The problem is that nowadays, most phones require a PIN number or passcode to open the phone up. Police do not have super- secret ninja powers to figure out your passcode if you can-not tell it to them. If you are involved in a vehicle wreck or medical emergency, police will always look for your driver's license and your automobile insurance card.
Here is a low-tech way to get them the information they need to help your pets at home.
To help them know that there are animals in need of assistance at home, tape a laminated card to your driver's license and your automobile insurance card that says:
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY I have animals inside my home. Each of the contacts listed on the back of this card needs to be called to make arrangements to care for my animals if I am incapacitated.
Do Your ICE Contacts Know What to Do?
Ensure that your contacts also have access to your home with a key you have given them or they know where you hide a key as these are the people that will be getting your pets immediately, or at the very least coming and going from your house daily to care for your pets in your home.
Are Your Pet Care Instructions Current and Accessible?
Create an emergency animal care information packet today. It should include: all current vaccination certificates; list of medications with dosages; feeding instructions; a print out with photos of each animal and his or her name; your Letter of Instruction (see below); and a small amount of cash (enough for some gas and a few bags of dog food). Label the envelope "In Case of Emergency: Information on My Animals" and place it on your refrigerator.
Do You Have a Pet POD?
Consider having a separate savings account as a Pay on Death (POD) account for your animals' welfare. Many people think their estate will handle the expenses of their pets, however, it may take up to sixty days for an executor to be acknowledged by the court system and the executor to have access to funds to care for your animals. Have a savings account that is listed with one other person as Pay on Death. They will not have access to the account or your money while you are alive, but this will allow them immediate access to the POD account upon confirmation of your death. Make sure this person is aware of the account and where the account is held. This account should have enough money in it to care for your animals for at least three months.
Is Your Letter of Instruction Ready?
Consider a Letter of Instruction (LOI) on the animals themselves. This is separate from your will so you are able to update it frequently and at little to no expense. A Letter of Instruction is your guideline on what you want done with each animal. It can easily be updated as often as necessary to reflect any changes in your animal family or their medical needs. Your LOI should also stipulate who you do (or do not) want to get a specific animal upon your death. A copy of this letter should be on your refrigerator in your "In Case of Emergency" envelope and the original should be kept with your will.
Is Your Information Current?
Mark your calendar to remind yourself to update your ICE cards, LOI, and other information. Make sure the contact numbers are correct, that the people you will be depending on know how to get in your house and where to look for information on your animals.
Do not count on your spouse or partner to be your only back-up plan in case your spouse is with you when an emergency occurs and is incapacitated too!
Now go hug your hounds!