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If I died tomorrow, what would happen to my animals?

(Health warning – realism touched on)

Gracie on Angel's birthdayWe are all busy all of the time and clearly we’re never going to die because we haven’t got time for it; it isn’t scheduled in our diary, we’re always too young for it – death is definitely something that happens to other people.

OK, on a slower day with fewer coffees and more fruit and vegetables, we would have to recognise that we have little if any control over the moment of death and when that day arrives, we will no longer be able to physically step in and protect our most beloved companions of all, our animals.

What would happen to my animals if I died after typing this? Who would help them and what would they do? Have I mentioned the special diets they’re on to anyone with a memory, the favourite toy, the dog they hate on walks, their favourite spot to scratch? Can I be sure they would be taken in by someone I even know?

This may come as a shock and be upsetting, but at HUHA, we have often been approached by a vet or a pound and asked if we will take in animals that have been handed over to them to be euthanised because their owner has died and no-one in the family has wanted to keep them. Sometimes a family will surrender the animals directly to HUHA, being in no position to take in the animals of their recently deceased relative.

Of course, HUHA does take these animals in – they are some of the saddest cases we get because they are clearly animals that have been loved and now they are grieving, abandoned and left in an animal sanctuary with strangers. With the best will in the world, an animal sanctuary is not like home.

It’s easy to assume that someone in the family or a neighbour will sort it, if we think about it at all. Does your family like animals? Do they even know your animals? Do they have the money or the room to take them on; maybe they already have animals or people in the house with allergies?

So – put things in place now! Think about what you need to do. Some suggestions might be:

  • Approach a couple of appropriate people and ask them if they would take your animals in if the worst happened. They might be happy to be the new owners or temporary owners until someone suitable is found. Bottom line is, your animals will need help immediately.
  • In your purse or wallet include a card which indicates your animals and where they are (home or leased paddocks or wherever) – you could include the names of carers, the vet’s number, dietary and medication needs. Keep it somewhere findable – not with the gazillion loyalty cards and mess that’s always in there. Keep it updated! Some people get something written and placed on the front or back door – listing the animals, carers and where in the house to find their vital information.
  • Make sure the people that have agreed to take on the animals know them and are kept in touch with them.
  • Something legally binding would be worth considering. Again, keep in touch with the person or people you’ve asked – they might forget or go off the idea, you might get new pets, the people might shift away. You could perhaps set up a Trust which could assist with the cost of your animals’ care after your death.
  • If you decide that the animals can just be left at a reputable animal sanctuary and put that in your Will, please allow for assistance with the costs of care. Sanctuaries will try to rehome your animals and will do everything they can to reassure them, care for them and help them adjust to their new life without you, but it’s not like home. They will adjust but it’s hard.

So have a think. I only know two people who would mess around with pyjamas and raincoats like I do for my dogs and I will be talking to those people tomorrow. Your animals love you, the way Angel in halfsieyou love them. Without you, they are confused, distressed and they grieve as you would for them. Make sure someone worthy takes that on.

(The beautiful picture right at the top is of one of Matilda’s puppies taken by Jo Moore of Jo Moore photography).