Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: Surviving Your Owner

Dear Porky and Buddy,

I hope this is not too depressing a subject for you, but I need to ask. I am getting on up there in years and I have three cats whom I love dearly. I worry that something will happen to me and there will be no one to take care of them. Do you have any ideas?


Dear Linda,

We hope you live forever, as we plan to, but just in case, yes there are some things you can do to make sure that your pets are not left stranded if you are not able to take care of them for any reason. This is a common problem so we hope you will pass this on to other friends with similar concerns.

The first thing to do is to talk to your family and close friends. Can you make an informal arraignment with people you trust that they will take your pets in and give them a home? You know your family and friends better than anyone else and only you can decide whether such an informal arrangement will be secure enough for you. It is certainly the simplest solution, but you must understand that it is not enforceable after you die if anything goes wrong.

If that is not possible, talk to the person whom you have designated as the executor of your will. We are assuming that you have a will. Let him or her know that this is a concern for you and have a conversation as to how you want that person to deal with your pets. We hate to say this, but technically pets are personal property and your executor has the responsibility of making sure they go to the person who is inheriting your personal property if you have made no other arrangements. But of course you can’t control what that person does with them either, so unless you are very certain that just following your will is a good solution, we are back to square one.

There is one more formal solution and it may be a good one for you. Section 7-8.1 of the New York Estates Powers and Trusts law allows you to establish what is known as a “pet trust.” Basically you leave a reasonable sum of money for the care of your pets for up to 21 years and the person or organization that you designate as the trustee is responsible to make sure that the money you leave is used only for the care of your pets. If there is money left over after all of your pets “meet you at the Rainbow Bridge,” (pardon the euphemism) you can designate where that money should go or it will go back into your estate.

If you are thinking about setting up a pet trust to be administered by an animal welfare organization, be sure to talk to that organization first. You want to be certain that it can accept such a trust, and has the means to administer it, and the organization can give you practical advice about how much is a reasonable amount to put in the trust.

Thanks for thinking seriously about this serious subject. There is no question that your “golden years” will be that much brighter if you have pets to keep you company, but we think people owe it to their pets to prepare for all of life’s eventualities.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption for pets in urgent need, assistance with lost and found pets. Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter