Recently, I noticed a disturbing article in the news “Healthy dog euthanized in Virginia because owner wanted it buried with her.” The article stated in part:
A healthy dog was put to death in Virginia at the behest of its owner, who made the request in her will. The owner of Emma, a Shih Tzu mix, died March 8. Her dog was held at the Chesterfield Animal Shelter before it was picked up March 22 and then euthanized, NBC affiliate WWBT in Richmond first reported. Heartbroken animal shelter officials said they had no choice but to turn over Emma to the estate executor, even knowing what was going to happen to her. . . . Emma’s owner, Anita Cullop-Thompson, 67, wanted to be interred with her pet, Morrissett Funeral and Cremation Service owner Larry Spiaggi told NBC News.
Don’t assume that your pet will be unable to adapt after your death. For example, earlier this year, I traveled to Australia. I was gone for several weeks and left my cat, Roger, at home, with a cat sitter looking in on him daily. Roger and I had never been apart before for such a long period of time. Roger, like many cats, tends to be aloof to strangers. At the beginning of my trip, Roger behaved in a very standoffish way toward the cat sitter. But, over time, Roger adapted to my absence. He began to walk over to cat sitter when she arrived, rub against her legs, and seek attention and affection. Animals, just like people, adapt to new circumstances and situations. Simply put, sentencing a pet to death when you pass away should not be a part of your estate planning.
My firm works with our clients in order to create pet friendly estate planning options – including drafting pet trusts or, more informally, putting provisions in Wills to clarify who will care for the pet and ensure that adequate funds exist to assist that person in meeting the costs associated with pet food, supplies and veterinary care. Many options exist to provide for quality care for your pets after your death. Even if you do not have a family member, friend, or neighbor who would gladly welcome your pets into their families, organizations exist to assist in finding new homes for pets who have lost their owners, including no-kill shelters and rescue organizations.
More information concerning our estate planning work related to pets can be found here: https://staceyromberg.com/estate-planning-washington-state/pets-in-estate-planning/. We will assist you in creating an estate plan that helps you and your pet to be together every day that both of you are alive; but when you pass, part of your legacy will be creating a positive situation in which your pet can move on, adapt, and continue to live a happy life in new home.