EPCRR Knowledge Center

How to Ensure the Best Care for Your Pet

Hotelaire and real estate magnate Leona Helmsley made headlines when her will left 12 million dollars to her dog. While most Americans can’t leave millions to their pets, people should plan for their pets’ long-term care.

Among moves, military deployments and hospital stays, Americans might find themselves unable to mind their animal companions. But responsible pet owners can take steps to ensure that their animals receive adequate care in their absence. Here are some tips for Americans with pets:

- Keep records. Losing an animal can be devastating, but keeping files on pets can help speed recovery. Records can also help veterinarians and new homes provide better care.

Files should include recent photographs showing the animal from each side, which can help animal shelters identify your pet. Owners should also keep their pets’ vaccinations, health certificates, rabies certificates, medical histories, breeders’ information, pedigrees and weights on record.

Some services help track pets’ information. For example, The Estate Vault, an online estate-planning software program that helps users consolidate everything from marriage licenses to medical histories, contains a section for pets. Users can keep their pets’ information in an easy-to-access, safe digital form. The Estate Vault also helps users plan for pet care in their wills. Digital files can prove more secure than paper documents, which can be lost or destroyed by fire or water damage.

- Prepare for the unexpected. Speak to at least two people who can care for your pet in an emergency. Give your emergency caretakers your pets’ feeding and care instructions, the name and number of your veterinarian and any information concerning permanent care plans for your pets.

- Make formal arrangements. Work with an attorney to create a will covering your pets’ long-term care. Find someone willing to care for your animal permanently, then formalize the agreement and the amount of money that you plan to provide.