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Think About Estate Planning for
I have two cats, Oscar and Bailey, whom I
love very much. When I die who will take care of them? I assume my
Mom would, but what if my Mom isn't alive or is unable to care for
them? I think somebody would take them - but how can I assure that
they will be well cared for? Herein lies the problem when the pet
owner dies without having made plans for their beloved little
friends. It is quite possible for the pet to become homeless or
forgotten. In either instance, the premature death of the animal
is possible. For most pet lovers, like myself, this is not an
As an estate planning attorney, I find that
most of my clients are concerned about passing wealth on to their
children with as little tax consequence as possible, or are
concerned about who will take care of their children should the
parents die before the children are grown. A growing area of the
law, and a topic I always mention to my estate planning clients,
is who will take care of your pets upon your incapacity or death?
There are actually three times where
problems develop. The first is if the pet owner is hospitalized
due to a traumatic injury or severe illness. In some instances the
pet owner is unconscious, which can greatly confuse the situation.
The second time a problem can develop is
when a person dies without a provision in his or her will
providing for pets. The question is who will take care of the pet,
and with what money?
The third instance in which problems can
develop in caring for pets is when a person dies with a will which
provides for his pets, but there are no instructions to take care
of the pet before the will is admitted to probate. This time
period between death and a will being admitted to probate is one
in which the personal representative of the estate can do nothing
without court direction.
The first step in the planning process is
to find friends or relatives who are willing to care for your
pets, and provide them with a good home. You then need to find a
qualified estate planning lawyer. You need a lawyer to draft, at a
minimum, a durable power of attorney and a will. Both documents
should clearly state who you desire to care for your pets if you
become unable to do so yourself. Additionally, you should name
some alternate caretakers in case your first choice is unable or
unwilling to adopt your pets when the need arises. You may also
choose to leave some money to the caretaker with the intention
that it be used to provide for the pet.
Contrary to what we see in the movies, most
states do not allow a person to leave money directly to their
pets. Some states allow you to set up an "Honorary Trust" for your
pet. An Honorary Trust is one through which you select a trustee
who has the responsibility of caring for your pet with the money
left to the trust. These are allowed to operate for a maximum of
21 years, which is long enough to care for most household pets.
In 1991, California established Probate Code
Section 15212, which gives a pet owner the ability to set up
trusts which can last for the lifetime of the pet. This is an
important change over prior laws, particularly for people with
animals who are likely to live a long time.
It is important not to leave all your money
to your pet however, as relatives are more likely to contest the
will or trust if they think you left too much to an animal. To
avoid this problem, leave enough for reasonable comfort and care
of your pets, but not more than that.
In some instances, particularly with the
elderly or people with a house full of animals, it can be
difficult to find a caretaker. In these instances you may consider
looking for a charitable organization that can provide for your
animals. There are many organizations which do not euthanize their
animals, particularly if a contribution is made to the
organization through your will or trust! Additionally, you should
do your homework on the facility to make sure they care for
animals in a manner you would be happy with; for example, you
likely wouldn't want to leave your pet to a facility that cages up
its animals for hours at a time.
There are pet owners who would prefer to
have their animal euthanized at the owner's death if there is no
friend or relative available to provide a good home for the pet.
This is an area of the law I choose not to discuss, as I do not
encourage euthanizing a healthy animal - I feel there is always a
Above all else make sure your attorney knows
what provisions to put into your estate planning documents in
regards to your pets. There are many attorneys with thirty years
experience who have never provided in a will for a pet, so make
sure your attorney knows what they are doing so that your Oscar
and Bailey will be protected!
Written by John B. Palley, an Estate
Planning attorney in Sacramento, and an attorney member of the
Animal Legal Defense Fund.
Learn the Facts About West Nile
Plan ahead for pets during travel
So how much do you know about the West Nile
virus? How can it affect your pets? How much I feel certain I know
can be summed up in two words: very little. To remedy this, I did
some research, and found a lot of facts, but not all the answers.
According to the American Veterinary Medical
Association, most infections of West Nile virus have been
identified in wild birds, but the virus can also infect humans,
horses, dogs, cats, bats, chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic
rabbits and domestic birds.
You probably know that mosquitoes transmit
the virus. The trouble begins when the virus multiplies and
crosses the blood-brain barrier. Fortunately, the AVMA reports
that the virus is not transmitted directly from person to person,
animal to person, person to animal or animal to animal.
The Centers for Disease Control report that
in Asia and Africa, West Nile virus has also been found in ticks,
but fortunately, ticks haven't been shown to transmit the disease.
Even though the CDC states there is no evidence that a person can
get the virus from simply touching an infected human or animal,
you should use gloves or plastic bags if you handle sick or dead
I wondered about the likelihood of cats and
dogs catching it, especially if they are outdoor pets. According
to the CDC, the virus has been found only once in a dog -- in
Botswana in 1982. However, the West Nile virus was identified in
several dead cats in the United States in 1999 and 2000. Like
humans, dogs and cats contract the virus via mosquito bites and
cannot transmit it directly to either animals or humans. They do
not necessarily die from the virus, and there is no reason to
euthanize a dog or cat who contracts it.
The Mississippi State Department of Health
echoes this advice on their website, explaining that most animals
other than birds will not become ill or die when they are infected
with the virus, and infected animals do not need to be destroyed.
So what are the signs and symptoms of the
virus infection for animals? The most common sign for horses is
weakness, usually in the hindquarters. The horse may have a
widened stance, stumble and lean to one side. In extreme cases,
paralysis may follow. Fever is sometimes evident, along with
depression and fearfulness, according to the AVMA.
For other animals, the signs are a little
more difficult to spot. Wild birds infected with West Nile virus
in the United States are most often found dead, so it is a little
late to check for symptoms. The AVMA reports that clinical signs
associated with the virus infection in dogs, cats, bats,
chipmunks, skunks, squirrels, domestic rabbits and domestic birds,
"have not been well described." So, those are the facts, but not
really the answers.
The Humane Society of the United States
explains that while a vaccine is available, it has been
conditionally licensed for horses -- there is none yet for humans
or companion animals. The most effective way to protect yourself,
your pets and your livestock from the West Nile virus is to
prevent mosquito bites. The CDC and the U.S. Department of
Agriculture offer some tips:
* Get rid of standing water around your
house -- mosquitoes might breed there.
* Dispose of any unused outside water containers and drill
holes in the bottom of containers that are left outdoors.
* Turn over plastic wading pools or wheelbarrows when not
in use, and do not allow water to stagnate in birdbaths.
* Clean clogged roof gutters regularly.
* Ventilate ornamental pools or stock them with fish.
* Clean and chlorinate swimming pools that are not in use.
* Clean livestock's troughs thoroughly every month.
* Don't rely on ultrasonic mosquito-repelling machines or
vitamin B to ward off bites.
Visit the AVMA's site, at
http://www.avma.org/ or the HSUS's site, at http://www.hsus.org/
for more information about the virus.
Pets Column, written by Bethany Waldrop
Examine many options when deciding
whether or not to take a pet on a trip.
"Boarding a pet or hiring a pet sitter are
two options I recommend if the pet is left behind," said Dr.
Richard Hopper, veterinarian with the College of Veterinary
Medicine at Mississippi State University. "Taking a pet along can
mean extra work at a time when most people want to be relaxing,
but on the other hand will also assure the owners that the pet is
safe and healthy."
Hopper recommended these tips if the pet
goes on a trip with its owner:
Call hotels, motels, homes or parks ahead to
be sure the pet will be welcome;
Be sure the pet has all required
vaccinations and a current health certificate;
Take along the pet's regular food, any
special medications, a supply of water and bedding;
Be sure the pet has a collar with an
identification tag with the owner's name and telephone number;
Keep the pet in a cage or on a leash at all
Consult a veterinarian if the pet is
suspected for car-sickness or might experience anxiety when
Source: MSU's CVM
Many common items can be toxic to
Keeping your pet safe from
poisonous insects, animals, plants and other environmental and home
hazards requires a mix of education, common sense, and planning
The first step is to "pet proof" the house and
yard, just like you might for a toddler; pets are often just as
clever at getting into things they shouldn't. Make sure that all
chemicals, medications, food, "toys" that aren't, and garbage are
out of reach of your pet. Dogs are notorious for eating things that
smell good or look like toys but aren't. Every year we remove
countless nylons, peach pitts, corn cobs, coins, diapers, super
balls, and many other items from the stomachs and intestines of
dogs. For cats the worst culprit seems to be strings and other
similar materials, which get caught under the tongue despite being
swallowed and cause the intestine to scrunch into a little ball
trying to move the string through the intestinal tract.
Ethylene glycol (found in antifreeze) is a
particulary dangerous household poison. It tastes sweet and
ingestion of even a very small amount can cause acute kidney failure
and death in dogs and cats. You can visit the Pet Health Initiative
site for additional information on antifreeze poisoning. There is
an antidote for ethylene glycol toxicity (dogs only) but to be
maximally effective it must be given within a few hours of
ingestion. You can read more about Antizole, an antidote for
ethylene glycol toxicity courtesy of the drug's manufacturer.
Unfortunately, for those dogs already in kidney failure, the
antidote is ineffective; and a prolonged hospital stay will be
required for recovery.
There are two main types of rodenticides that
are toxic to animals. Anti-coagulant rodenticides are more common.
They interfere with the activation of several factors in the
clotting system and the poisoned animal can bleed to death. Good
information on anticoagulant rodenticide intoxication is available
at the Cornell University Veterinary School site. The other type of
rat and mouse poisons that cause toxicities in dogs and cats are
vitamin D rodenticides. Large quantities of vitamin D cause massive
increases in the blood calcium and kidney failure.
A number of outdoor plants and house plants
are toxic to animals. Many plants are just gastrointestinal
irritants and cause vomiting. Others are far more dangerous. One
example is the Easter Lily, which can cause severe and often fatal
Over-the-counter and prescription drugs
intended for humans should not be used in dogs or cats except upon
the advice of that pet's veterinarian. Some drugs that humans use
routinely are highly toxic in pets. One example is acetominophen
(Tylenol), which is highly toxic in cats. The drug damages feline
hemoglobin rendering it incapable of carrying oxygen.
Inappropriate use of flea and tick products
was once a relatively common cause of toxicity in dogs and cats.
With the advent on newer generation products (eg. Advantage,
Frontline, Program) organophosphates and other insecticides are used
less commonly. Information on toxicities assoicated with flea
products in cats is
available from CFA.
The last step in "pet proofing" your house is
to ensure that you have the telephone numbers for your veterinarian,
emergency clinic, and local poison control center readily
available. There is a list of Poison Control Centers available on
the Web. The ASPCA's National Animal Poison Control Center also has
a web site that includes their 800 number for emergency cases.
Introduce a New Cat into Your Home
1. Cats that grew up around other cats usually
adjust more easily to a new feline housemate. Confine the first pet
to one part of the house while the new pet explores the rest. Then
switch their territories. This allows each to become familiar with
the other's presence and allows the newcomer to locate places to
hide if conflict occurs.
2. After a few days, place the new cat in a
carrier and let the original cat discover the newcomer on its own.
Note how they react to one another. When you decide to let both have
freedom in the entire house, maintain two litterboxes and feeding
areas to prevent one from guarding these resources from the other.
3. Spend ample time with your original pet
alone so that it does not become jealous of the new pet.
4. Let the pets set their own pace and ease
into a relationship. Do not force them together. They may take two
or three months to come to an understanding. If things aren't
progressing as you'd like, consult your veterinarian.
1.Cats that as kittens had positive
experiences with dogs will usually adjust more easily to a canine
2. Confine the first pet to one part of the
house while the new pet explores the rest. Then switch their
territories. This allows each to become familiar with the other's
presence and allows the new pet to locate places to hide when
3. Put a leash on your dog. If he attempts to
chase or bark at the cat, give the leash a quick jerk and tell him
"NO" firmly. Praise your dog when he behaves calmly around your cat.
The cat will soon learn that if she doesn't run, the dog won't be
ins pired to chase her, and your dog will understand that harassing
the cat is not allowed.
4. Ensure the cat always has access to hiding
places the dog is not able to reach. It is wise to confine them
separately at first when you are unable to supervise.
5. Spend ample time with your original pet to
minimize jealousy of the newcomer.
6. Let the two pets set their own pace and
ease into the relationship. Do not force them together. They may
take two or three months to come to an understanding. If things
aren't progressing as you'd like, consult your veterinarian.
Love2Pet.us pet health
articles and links are for informational purposes only. They are not
a means of diagnosing or treating a pet health problem. A visit to
the pet health articles and links is not meant to be a substitute
for a visit to a trained animal health care professional, so please
make sure your pet has regular check-ups and consult your
veterinarian for medical questions. All articles and clip art are
the property of the respective copyright holders and are here for
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