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10 tips: providing for your pet

By HELEN HUNTLEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 6, 2002

You probably expect to outlive your pet, but what if you don't? Animal lovers say pet owners of all ages should take steps to make sure their pets will be cared for properly. Here are some tips on how to do that.

1. Identify backups. Find at least two people who will serve as temporary caregivers for your pet in an emergency. You also need someone willing to take on the task permanently at your death. Discuss your expectations with each person.

2. Do your homework. If you plan to delegate permanent care of your pet to an organization or pet retirement home, check out its record and visit in person to see the quality of care provided.

3. Spread the word. Make sure your neighbors, co-workers and relatives know about your pet and have the names and contact numbers for your emergency caregivers.

4. Carry a card. Carry emergency contact information for your pets as well as for yourself.

5. Post outside notices. "In case of emergency" notices that list the number and types of pets you own should be posted on doors or windows to alert firefighters or other emergency workers. Make sure your signs are removable and keep them up to date.

6. Post inside notices. Near a door inside your home post your emergency contact names and numbers, the name and number of your veterinarian and the location of your pet's medical records.

7. Make it legal. Consider working with a lawyer to make disposition of your pet a formal part of your estate plan. Your will or trust might refer to "any and all animals I may own at the time of my death." Specifics about each pet can be in a separate document.

8. Provide for a health check. The Humane Society suggests directing the personal representative of your estate to have your pet examined by a veterinarian, then pay for any necessary medical treatment or arrange for euthanasia if a pet is too sick to be restored to good health.

9. Provide the money, but not too much. It's only fair to compensate a person or organization that has agreed to care for your pet, but a very large bequest may give unhappy relatives grounds to challenge your will. Your best bet is a reasonable amount based on the projected cost of care, with an allowance for inflation.

10. Stay in touch. Keep in contact with your backup caregivers. If their circumstances change, you may need to find someone else to take their place.

-- Sources: Humane Society of the United States and Times research.

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