The Pet You Love May Become the Pet You Leave

The Pet You Love May Become the Pet You Leave

Pets – Part of the American Family

Ask any pet owner what they would save if their house caught fire. Pets often rank higher than jewelry or artwork.

More than 74 million American households have 365 million pets. Many people feel that a pet is just as much a part of the family as any other member of the household.

A Fatal Omission

There's a difference, though. Most Americans include human family members in planning for what will happen in the event of a disabling injury or disease.

Too often, pets don't get the same attention—mainly because people aren't aware of the possibilities. Owners don't want pets to be mistreated or euthanized prematurely if they are no long around to personally provide care.

Many Family Pets End Up in Shelters

Unfortunately, that's the fate in store for many beloved pets. According to the Humane Society, more than 6 million pets enter shelters each year. Not all of them find a new home and about half are euthanized. Older animals—the ones mostly likely to wind up in shelters—are less likely to be adopted than puppies or kittens.

An estimated 500,000 pets are euthanized annually, often because their owners die without providing for their care.

A Legal Document for Your Pets -- The Pet Protection Agreement™

Animal lovers who take time to think ahead simply don't want to leave a pet unprotected. Until recently, a pet clause in a will or a stand-alone pet trust were the only easily-accessible options for concerned pet owners. Both have familiar advantages and disadvantages.

Now there's another alternative: the Pet Protection Agreement. It's a unique legal document designed to provide uninterrupted care for pets when the owner is no longer able to do so. The Pet Protection Agreement can be created online, often at a fraction of the cost of a pet trust, and it requires less formality. One option covers pet care if the owner is hospitalized.

It's a contract between the pet owner and an individual or organization who pledges to take care of your animals. That's the pet guardian. Owners can be as detailed about a care as desired. The owner is creating an instruction manual directing care of the pet.

Protection Agreement Flexibility

Unlike a formal pet trust, a Pet Protection Agreement does not require a trustee. No probate is involved. And funding is optional in the Pet Protection Agreement, although provisions can be as detailed and generous as the owner wishes. What happens to any funds left over when all pets die can be specified.

The Pet Protection Agreement can ensure that funds for the pet's care are available immediately and will continue as long as needed.

For Pets, With Love

Family members and friends can be a source of tremendous support when a pet owner dies or when he or she is no longer able to care for the pet—even for periods as brief as travel or a hospital stay. But the informal commitments of family and friends may become a burden when the pet suddenly needs a permanent home.

Recognizing such reality, pet owners should consider a Pet Protection Agreement for a beloved pet's ongoing care. Pet Protection Agreements are ideal tools to help owners and their pets remain together, to ensure that pets are well-cared-for, and to establish procedures for permanent changes in ownership.

Learn more about LegalZoom's Pet Protection Agreement.

Rachel Hirschfeld is a nationally recognized expert in estate planning and an advocate for people and their pets. Ms. Hirschfeld co-chairs the New York County Lawyers Association's Animal Law Committee and is often quoted in newspapers and legal journals on legal issues affecting pets. She is author of the book “PETRIARCH: The Complete Guide to Financial and Legal Planning for a Pet's Continued Care.” Ms. Hirschfeld developed the Pet Protection Agreement, which is available exclusively through

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