Pet Care

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman sitting on a rock with arm around a dog overlooking mountains

What will happen to my pets if I am unable to care for them and have not made other arrangements for their care?

Without a proper plan in place for the future care of your pets, they are at risk of ending up in a shelter where they could be euthanized. Thus, it is important to create a plan now to ensure that your pet is always cared for.

What options do I have when arranging for the future care of my pet?

Please see our analysis of informal vs. formal arrangements to decide which option works best for you and your pet.

What precautions can I take regarding my pet in the event of an emergency?

For information on creating a disaster plan for your pet, please see our disaster preparedness section.

What information should I provide the designated guardian and/or caretaker of my pet?

The ASPCA recommends creating a Pet Dossier with pertinent information about your pet. Even if you don’t have a plan in place for the future care of your pet, this information is vital to helping your pet find a new home faster.

Some examples of information to include are:

  • Habits
  • Food preferences
  • Medical conditions and medications taken
  • Veterinary information and records
  • Behavior around other pets/people/children

Your Pet Dossier should be kept in a safe but accessible place with other important papers, and copies should be distributed to all parties in your pet’s circle of care.

Can I put a provision for the care of my pet in my will?

Yes, it is possible to include a provision for the care of a pet in your will, however the ASPCA does not recommend this approach because any delay in administering your estate could spell trouble for your pet. For other options, please see our analysis of informal vs. formal arrangements for further explanation.

What is a Pet Protection Agreement?

The ASPCA has recently teamed up with Legal Zoom to provide an affordable and easy vehicle by which to provide continuing care for your pet. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org/legalzoom.

What is a Pet Trust?

A pet trust is a legally sanctioned arrangement providing for the care and maintenance of pets in the event of a grantor’s disability or death. The grantor is the person who creates the trust, which may take effect during his or her life or at death. For more information on pet trusts, please see our Pet Trust Primer article.

Is it possible to create a pet trust even if my state does not have a pet trust law?

Yes, as long as your trust establishes some connection with a state that has a pet trust law.

For example:

  • the trustee lives in a state with a pet trust law; or,
  • the caretaker whom you have named in your trust lives in a state with a pet trust law; or
  • the retirement home that you have chosen for your pet is located in a state with a pet trust law; or
  • you own property in a state with a pet trust law.

To determine if your state has a pet trust law, please see our State Laws Chart. For more information on pet trusts in general, please see our Pet Trust Primer article.

As a multiple pet owner, can my pets stay together in the event of my hospitalization or death?

If you are an owner of more than two pets, it may not always be realistic for a single person to care for all of your animals. It is therefore extremely important for you to plan ahead, particularly if you want them to remain together. Please see our analysis of informal vs. formal arrangements [new page] for more information on the various options available for the future care of your pets.

Is there a limit to the amount of money I can leave my pets?

No. Although it is not necessary to leave any money for the care of your pet, it is recommended. Please see our Funding Dos and Don’ts [new page] for further explanation.

What if I do not have any friends or family willing to act as a potential guardian and/or caretaker for my pet in my absence?

If you do not know many people, or are new to a community, become familiar and active with your local humane society or other rescue groups operating in your area. Often local animal welfare organizations will be willing to help place an animal if they have sufficient notice that a person lives alone or has no one to care for a pet if something happens to them. Please avoid instructions for the euthanasia of adoptable animals. There is someone who can love your pet as much as you do!

How do I plan for the future care of a pet with a long lifespan?

Please see our Planning for the Future Care of Equines and Exotics if you are the owner of a pet with a long lifespan.

Are there pet retirement homes?

Yes. There are several pet retirement homes sponsored by schools for veterinary medicine and others that are privately operated. As a pet guardian, you must make a decision as to which situation works best for you. Do your homework and thoroughly investigate all possibilities, especially the organization you ultimately select.

Where can I get more general information on planning for your pet’s future?

ASPCA experts recommend the following books:

When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die
by David Congalton & Charlotte Alexander
All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet
by Peggy R. Hoyt
Petriarch: The Complete Guide to Financial and Legal Planning for a Pet's Continued Care
by Rachel Hirschfeld

For additional questions regarding planning for your pet’s future, please email us at [email protected].