You Need a Plan

When we saw the article “Straight Talk for Senior Adopters” in the Whole Dog Journal, we were happy that someone had taken the time to gather their thoughts on a topic we have been bumping up against ourselves. We ask applicants to state their age on the NGPR Adoption Application and have seen that number trending upward lately. Although it is only one of many considerations when looking at an application, we want to be sure that the adoption is in everyone’s best interest. Nancy Kerns, founding editor of the Whole Dog Journal, gives voice to some of those concerns.

According to editor of the Whole Dog Journal, “The older we get, the more we need a backup plan for our dogs, in the event of our deaths.” Some circumstances can warrant greater concern. “If your dog is fearful and prone to biting strangers, or has any trait that might make him considered unadoptable in a shelter, your have a greater-than-average responsibility to make arrangements for his care in case of your death – even more so if your health is not good or you are in your senior years.”

“Managing the physical size and exercise needs of a big dog is not the only potential challenge for older people adopting a dog. It’s tough to think about, but it’s a reality that people in their senior years are more prone to illnesses or injuries that render them unable to care for their dogs than younger adopters. If you inquire at your local shelter, I will bet folding money that they can point out several dogs who are there solely because their owners passed away without making arrangements for someone else to take the dogs in. In my opinion, it’s irresponsible and selfish to adopt dogs without having a backup plan – and perhaps even money set aside – for our dogs in case of our deaths.”

NGPR was asked recently to take back a dog who was adopted from us four years ago. The owner died unexpectedly and the dog was still living in the house that the owner had occupied. We had been told a family member would take the dog in event of the owner’s death but they declined because in the interim they had acquired dogs of their own. We are now in the process of learning about the unfortunate dog and her needs so she can move on to an adopter or foster who will be good match for her. This is not the first time the rescue has been in this situation yet as we ourselves age, it takes on greater weight.

There is an alternative to relying on friends or relatives to assume care of your pets and their cost. Rather an casual, verbal arrangement, a Pet Trust provides added safeguards that ensure the pet will be taken care of. This legal arrangement lays out the plan for providing for the care and maintenance of one or more companion animals. The pet owner is the “grantor” who creates the trust. The trust is managed by the trustee, who holds the property (usually cash) to be distributed for the care of the pet(s). The trustee will make payments to the designated caregiver(s) on a regular basis and if needed, can also take effect during the life of pet owner. The Pet Trust is a legally enforceable arrangement which assures pet owners their directions will be carried out.

The ASPCA provides a Pet Trust Primer on its website which is a good introduction to setting up a trust. They also have a page on Pet Trust laws by state,, as these can vary.

With so many abandoned pets showing up in shelters or coming back to rescues, there’s no better time than the present to explore the options and make plans regarding the future care of your pets.