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Thursday, September 22, 2005

If you die, where will your animals end up?

By Dr. Robin Downing

Occasionally I am asked by readers and clients about making arrangements for their pets in the event of an emergency or unexpected death.

Several times each year, my practice-team members and I try to find a new home for a pet whose owner has died without a plan in place for perpetual care for the pet.

Those of us who have pets love our animals and think of ourselves as responsible pet providers. What we sometimes forget is that our "lifetime" commitment to our pets means their lifetime. Here are some statistics:

Up to 66 percent of Americans die without a will in place.

Only 12-15 percent of American pet owners remember to include their pets in their wills.

More than 61.5 million dogs live in the U.S., and more than 43 million U.S. households include dogs.

More than 74.9 million cats live in the U.S., and more than 31.2 million U.S. households include at least one cat as a pet.

Nearly 60 percent of households include dogs and cats.

For every human baby born in the U.S. today, 13 puppies and kittens make their way into the world.

More than 55 million pet fish live in the U.S.

There are about 50 million pet birds in the U.S.

Between two and four pets are brought to one shelter in Colorado each month because their owner died and left no formal instructions for the pet's care.

Only 25 percent of dogs and 24 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are adopted.

Nearly 10 million animals are euthanized annually in shelters in the U.S.

Shelters are overcrowded. And survival statistics are not great for animals that end up in them. Do not allow your own beloved pets to become part of these horrifying statistics. With a little preventive planning, you can ensure your pets are appropriately cared for in the event of an unexpected emergency or if your pets outlive you.

The state of Illinois was the first to create specific legislation to provide pet owners with a legal vehicle through which to protect their pets by establishing a trust for their perpetual care. Speak to your attorney about Colorado's legal rights and how you can make provision in your estate planning for the perpetual care of animals in your care.

In the meantime, visit 3ArkAngels.com for information about planning for pets in the event of your death. There is a short-term and long-term planning section. You also can download a free "Pet Alert Card" to get you started. It's never too early to protect your pet from crisis.

Dr. Robin Downing will respond to your questions in her weekly column, but cannot answer individually. Send questions to Robin Downing, DVM, P.O. Box 460, Windsor, CO 80550 or drrobin@windsorvet.com.


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