When the Owner is Unable to Care for Their Pet…

I just received this question in my mail, again (but from someone new), and I thought I’d take a moment to post my answer here on this blog. I know that I have been asked if I minded if I were named in a will as caretaker to some former patients, should the owners pass on before the beloved pets do. I also know that although my Great Dane, the Grace, had an exuberant yet complicated physical status, several people would have been in line to care for her, and I had already cleared with the #1 choice that it WOULD happen. If something had happened as well to #1, I’m pretty sure that #’s 2 & 3 would have figured out things, and some different peeps were interested in the Grace’s cat, Calvin.

That being said, here is the Q & A, mostly for the purpose of getting you thinking about this situation for yourselves…

Hi Deborah,
How are you? I’m wondering if you know of any options for longer term care/fostering of dogs? Versus boarding. My mom has Parkinson’s and fell and dislocated and broke her shoulder. We expect she is going to be in some sort of rehab care facility for the next 3-6 weeks. We will ask our vet too but thought you might have some insight. Thanks!

(Now, I will add that I am also 4.5 yrs out from a breast cancer diagnosis, and I am very active in the local cancer community as well. This note comes from a cancer sister who has moved out of the area and is really seeking help. Many of the people who contact me have not given this type of situation much thought, however many others have a multiplicity of issues, dynamic lives, and the answers may not be as cut and dry as one might assume…)

My answer:

I don’t think I have any really “great” ideas, however here I usually tell people to contact a rescue group associated with the breed they are trying to get cared for, if there is a specific breed. Otherwise, there are a couple of good rescues that may have a better answer, like XXX, XXX, & XXX.
It’s a good question, and I think that over time, somehow, it’s an issue that needs to be better addressed…maybe…I actually get a mail about this at least once per month, it seems. Someone will be sick or will have died and the animal needs care…I guess that once an animal has a home, it is assumed that the owner has friends or family to take care of the pet. I know that people would have fought over taking care of Grace. Perhaps the bigger issue is that people need to be made aware that they probably need to find “godparents” for their pets, much like we would do with children should we die.
That seems to be the best answer…otherwise, letting them go is like giving a kid to CPS (no offense to the gals I know working in the system :)) (and that is essentially where my answer ended)

Most people probably wouldn’t want their child to be a true orphan, and I just don’t think we have been challenged to think much the same about our pets.  Most of the rescues and shelters are chock full…unwanted pets, pets from homes of people under duress, lack of spay & neuter (back to unwanted litters), etc, etc…Boarding costs money, and if the owner can afford it, boarding at a play-care facility might be a good option, if the owner is expected to be able to return to the care of their pet.

But, that part of the equation is often an unknown.

Hospice care is up and coming, and relative to that would be orphan or interim pet care…but this needs donations from a tapped community and/or owner-pay to sustain the care. A will would/could take care of the sustained care, however the majority of people I hear from are speaking about interim care of indeterminate time value. Ideally, shelters and rescues in a community that experienced almost no unwanted pet births and had a high rate of owner compliance with spay and neuter could then be more free to care for the animals that are surrendered for reasons pertaining to housing issues or owner health or other unexpected life complications.

Just some thoughts…



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