Planning for When You Can No Longer Take Care of Your Pet

As we receive our FIFTH request this week alone for help rehoming animals of deceased relatives, we would be remiss not to make this post.

Make. Plans. For. Your. Animals.

If you just assume your family will take care of them if anything happens to you, you are wrong. An agreement needs to be put in place beforehand. Once you're gone, anything can happen to your beloved pets. Even the most well-intentioned family members can give them away to unknown people. We're hearing about family members dumping pets outside. Only you care about your animals. You can't assume anybody else does.

We have added this requirement to our adoption contracts and our adoption application. Before you get an animal, have a plan for what will happen to them in your demise. Even if you are young, we still need to plan. Tomorrow is not promised.

If you have an elderly family member with animals, have the uncomfortable conversation with them NOW. Not when they get sick. Not when it's last minute. Help them plan.

Please, please, please have a plan in place. Have friends and family commit ahead of time and put this in your Will. If you adopted the animal from a shelter or rescue, put this in your Will so the animal can be returned to the shelter or rescue. Once you're gone, you have no control over what happens to your animals. You only have control TODAY when you're alive and able to make these plans.

Our hearts bleed for all the animals whose owners did not plan.

We've compiled these resources to help you plan:

Emotional Support Animals

Let's talk Emotional Support Animals. Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are "prescriptions" from your mental health provider to aide in a diagnosed mental health issue. They do not have the same legal rights as service animals (trained animals that aide physically disabled people) but they may help with moving into rental properties that do not allow pets. By law, the landlord must provide "reasonable accommodations" for ESAs. The pet owner must have proof from their mental health provider that an ESA is an acceptable form of therapy for that person.

Reasonable accommodations does not mean that the landlord has to legally permit the leaser to have a pet. Here is a helpful sheet on ESA laws in New Jersey:

More extensive information can be found here:

Some tips for looking for an emotional support animal:

1. Although young kittens may keep your mind off of your problems, they would not make good ESAs. They are loud, rambunctious and their personalities will change for the first year of their life so, although they are cute and cuddly now, they may not ever become a lap cat. We recommend a kitten that is at least 4 months old or - even better - an adult cat.

2. If you are looking for a single animal (registering multiple animals as ESAs, particularly for housing reasons, may be an uphill battle), an older cat is always recommended. Kittens need buddies for their development.

3. Older cats have established personalities. If you want a lap cat, an adult cat that is a lap cat will stay a lap cat. If you want a more independent cat, an adult cat that is independent will saty independent.

4. Find a cat that fits your lifestyle. Be honest about this in the adoption application. It's important that the right cat is matched up with you and fits your specific needs.