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What will happen to your pets when you die?

When the ambulance arrived to remove the body of an elderly New York resident, a woman in her 80s, they found Tina, an 11-year-old Chihuahua, standing guard. Rescuers took Tina to the town animal shelter. Luckily, a volunteer dog walker stopped by to walk Tina. When she learned where Tina was, she contacted Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS) NY.

“Tina’s owner was a client of ours,” said Carrie Nydick Finch, deputy director of programs and strategy for PAWS NY, a nonprofit that provides services to vulnerable New Yorkers in need. help caring for their pets due to physical and financial barriers. “The volunteer dog walker knew Tina and her owner, a woman with reduced mobility. She has been a customer with us for seven years.

“When pet owners die, move into a nursing home that doesn’t allow pets, or become too ill to care for their pets, we step in,” Nydick Finch said. “It is our customers that we have come to know. We have built a relationship with them and their pets.

The association works closely with the Animal Care Centers of NYC, the city’s animal shelter.

“They know us,” Nydick Finch said, “which means we can come in, take the animal out of the shelter, and place it in foster care until we find a loving home.”

Another benefit of knowing the animal allows PAWS NY to place the animal in an appropriate home. In Tina’s case, she had to be in a household with no other dogs, cats, or children.

Like Tina, Ruby, a 7-year-old Abyssinian cat, was meant to be a solitary pet. She found a new home through PAWS NY when her owner, a 90-year-old New Yorker with cognitive issues, moved into a nursing home.

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Have a plan in place to care for your pet

As Ruby’s owner began to decline a few years prior, a family member contacted PAWS NY; volunteers came to the apartment four times a week to clean the litter box, feed and care for Ruby.

“In this case, we were able to take Ruby when her landlord moved into the nursing home,” Nydick Finch said. “She did not end up in a shelter. She was placed in foster care until we found her a permanent home.

Tina and Ruby’s stories have a happy ending. “Emergencies happen all the time,” said Dianne McGill, Founder and President of Pet Peace of Mind. “We operate in 44 states and help pets find suitable homes when they become orphans.”

McGill recommends having an advance directive or living will for your pets.

“And talk to your family about the kind of care you want for your pets,” McGill added. “This discussion should be done early before you get sick and can’t care for your pet. It’s the best thing you can do for [them].”

Like PAWS NY, Pet Peace of Mind does not charge for its services. They also find homes for a variety of animals. A client, a 70-year-old man with three horses, wanted to die on his ranch in Idaho. When his cancer progressed and he could no longer care for his horses, Pet Peace of Mind stepped in with food, hay and volunteers. The horses were rehomed shortly after the man’s death.

Finding the right home for a cat, dog or even a horse has its challenges. Try to repatriate a snake.

“Not everyone wants to deal with one,” McGill said. “It’s a last wish. People love their pets and fear leaving them behind. I’ve seen people hang on and pass peacefully once they know their pet is well cared for.

To see: Which pet makes better financial sense, a cat or a dog?

Find the right sitter for your pet

Start by asking your adult children. With people living in different states and many with their own pets, they might not be the best choice.

“My stepfather had prostate cancer,” said Vicki Stevens, director of companion animal program management and communications at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). “He had two cocker spaniels and a cat. The dogs were related to each other, so we wanted to keep them together. Her 10-year-old cat ended up living with the caretaker who looked after my stepfather.

Stevens, who has her own pets, took the dogs until she found them forever homes.

“In addition to planning ahead, have more than one person ready to take care of your pets if and when the time comes,” Stevens said.

Pets in residences for the elderly

“A common misconception is that seniors’ residences, self-contained residences and nursing homes don’t allow pets,” said Julie Burgess, a certified dog trainer and veterinary technician. “Many do. Ask if there are any breed or weight restrictions and if there are any one-time or monthly fees. And ask them what happens to your pet when you can no longer care for it.

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Eight things to consider when planning your pet

When developing a plan to find a home for your pet, be sure to consider the following eight points:

  1. When you are sane, ask family members and close friends whether they will take care of your pets when you can no longer. Return with them as plans change. Your pet’s potential caretaker may no longer be able to care for your pet.
  2. While You’re Healthy, Create a Pet Trust and share it with potential guardians of your pet.
  3. If you adopted from a shelter or animal shelter, call them and ask them if they can take the animal back when you can no longer take care of it. Better yet, ask about their return policies when you adopt. Best Friends Animal Society makes a lifetime commitment to the pets they adopt.
  4. Keep animals tied together. It’s less stressful for your pets.
  5. Share a list of your pet’s diet, favorite treats, walking scheduleyour pet’s medical history, medications, and veterinarian’s phone number with potential sitters.
  6. Tell a neighbor about your plans. In an emergency, a neighbor should know who to contact about your pets.
  7. Carry a wallet alert card which lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency caregivers.
  8. Display the names and phone numbers of your emergency caregivers on your refrigerator. Most emergency service workers know to look there or inside your front door. This way, your pets won’t end up in a shelter in town. This list should also contain the names, ages, types of pets, and number of pets in your home.

Michele C. Creux is a freelance writer, editor, and ghostwriter specializing in health, climate, social justice, pets, and travel. Follow her on Twitter at @michelechollow.

This article is reproduced with permission from© 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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