Noah's Residents

Noah's Residents

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Where there’s a pet, there’s a will

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your pet if you were incapacitated or die?

Mei visiting Uncle Lim
at the home.
As a volunteer at animal shelters, I have seen cats and dogs being left in shelters or euthanized after their owners have suffered a stroke, had an accident or passed on because the owners failed to make a provision for the pet’s future.

In May 2014 - my friend, Uncle Lim who had 30 cats, slipped while moping the floor and injured his spine. He has paralysis from shoulder down, unable to use his fingers, hands or legs. He is now completely dependent on nursing care. While he was in the hospital, my friends and I had to scramble to take turns to feed his cats, nurse the sick ones and clean his house. Like most of us, he never thought he would be physically unable to care for his animals and hence never planned how to provide for them.  

Whilst I already have a will for my pets (which will only take effect upon my death), I did not consider events such as accident or illness leading to long term hospital stay or incapacitation. After witnessing my friend’s condition, I need to plan ahead to ensure that my pets, which I love and depend on me to care for them, will continue to receive the same care that they are accustomed to.

Here are a few tips to help you in case of your incapacitation and eventual death.


  • Find at least 2 responsible animal loving friends to be temporary or emergency caregivers.  
    • Please seek their consent. 
    • Provide house keys, feeding & care instructions, veterinarian contact details and such other relevant information. 
    • Leave some money with them. 
    • Make sure these caregivers (i.e. your friends or neighbours or relatives) know the number of pets you have. 
    • Do this now before any mishap occurs.
  • Carry an “Alert Card” in your wallet listing the names and phone numbers of emergency caregivers.
  • Affix a notice in your house listing emergency contact persons, contact numbers and instructions for your pet (this is critical if your pet has special medical or dietary needs). This notice cannot be over emphasized as your pets need care and attention should you die or become incapacitated.
  • Have extra medication or special food on standby. This is one of the priorities for pets with special medical care (such renal failure or heart ailment) or dietary needs. It is not easy to think clearly during a crisis, make it convenient for the caregiver until things are more settled.
Permanent Caregiver
Firstly you need to decide whether you want your pets to go to one person or different pets to different people. If possible, pets which have bonded with each other should be together.

When you are selecting the caregivers, consider the people who have met your pet and their experience in caring for pets. Choose a person you trust and will do what is in the best interest of the pet. 

Consider more than one person, just in case your first choice predeceased you, unable or unwilling to take your pet.  Discuss your expectations with potential caregivers so they understand the responsibility and your expectations of caring for your animal. Your instructions should not be unrealistically restrictive.

Will, Trust Deed or Power of Attorney or Letter of Wishes
In the UK and USA, pet owners set up a trust or create a power of attorney to provide for the pet if the pet owner becomes ill or incapacitated. Pet owners draw up a will to provide for the pet which will take effect when the pet owner dies.

The comedian and television host, Joan Rivers who passed away in September 2014, purportedly left a USD$150 million fortune to her daughter, grandson and her 3 rescue dogs, with instructions for her dogs to be taken care of.  It was reported that "Those dogs are her family. They meant the world to her and Joan wanted to make sure that if anything happened to her that they would be taken care of."

Although not many of us are in the same financial league as Miss Rivers, a trust deed or a power of attorney (in case of illness or incapacitation) and/or a will (in case of death) still could be drawn up for our pets.  Or at the very least, a letter of wishes to a trusted and kindred spirit as to how to provide for your pet when the need arises. Needless to say, you should seek the person’s permission whether he/she is willing to carry out your instructions. Don’t just leave instructions, do also leave some money to him/her as a gift and sufficient sum of money (consider inflationary costs) to cover for your pet’s food, medical, grooming and all related costs for the expected duration of the pet’s life

Think carefully.  Write it down clearly. Make sure that the document is readily accessible. Also do ensure that the chosen people are aware of this document and its location.

My Will
My will is simple. The section relating to my cats reads as follows:

I give and bequeath <Person’s name> my cats, <name of pets e.g. Tinkerbell and Bello> (and their possessions) along with a sum of <$XXX>   as a love gift to care for <name of pets e.g. Tinkerbell and Bello> for the rest of their lives and <$XXX> to cover for their food, veterinary, grooming and related costs for the rest of their lives.

In the event that <Person #1> is deceased or unable or unwilling to care of <name of pets e.g. Tinkerbell and Bello>, then <Person #2> shall receive the same bequest.

If you are the “kiasu” type (i.e. worried) you may incorporate a third clause, just in case Person #1 and Person #2 are not available.

In the event Person #2 is deceased or unable or unwilling to care of Tinkerbell and Bello, then my executor shall find a good and loving home to place both Tinkerbell and Bello (preferably together, but if that is not possible, then separately). The party(ies) that adopts the cats shall receive the cats’ possessions and a love gift of <$XXX> to care for Tinkerbell and Bello for the rest of their lives and <$XXX>  to cover for their  food, veterinary, grooming and all related cost for the rest of their life.

There is no absolute guarantee that my cats will be protected after my passing, even with the provisions in the Will. The caregiver could take the cats in and then abandon them or drop them off in a shelter. However I trust the people I have named as caregivers to be responsible and devoted pet owners and will carry out my wishes and do the right thing for me and my cats.

This article is to create awareness about providing for your pets during life changing moments. To me, Tinkerbell and Bello are my children.  I must plan ahead in finding temporary and permanent caregivers who can take over their care immediately when the need arises. It will also give me the peace of mind.

Please consider making such provisions for your pets. It’s the best gift you can give to your pets if something happens to you. And of course, if you have a spouse, do the same for him or her.

Written by Siah Li Mei

Please note that the writer and Noah’s Ark Natural Animal Sanctuary (NANAS) disclaim full responsibility and liability arising out of any reliance by any reader on any part of this article. The information given is general and is not intended to provide any legal advice. If the reader has any further query on the subject, please seek the services of a lawyer

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