Estate Planning to Help Homeless and Unwanted Pets
Every day in the United States, more than 10,000 dogs and cats are needlessly killed in dog pounds and animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that approximately 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized in animal shelters every year. The actual figures are probably higher because available data only reflects animal shelters that participate in surveys. To truly grasp the horror of what is happening to these lovable pets, think about the number of dead bodies that must be picked up and carried out for cremation or disposal in each shelter every time pets are euthanized.
While most people assume shelter pets are killed by an injection from a veterinarian, being euthanized is often a much more terrifying process for shelter pets. Many animal shelters still euthanize cats and dogs by forcing them into a gas chamber and gassing them to death. Unfortunately, the laws of several states still allow this method of euthanasia for unwanted pets. Imagine being a helpless animal with no way to escape and being inside the dark chamber with other frightened animals. Imagine being the person who has to open the chamber and carry out their lifeless but still warm bodies. This is what our society accepts. This is what our government condones.
Many shelter animals are forced to die before they have even reached their first birthday, simply because there are too many of their breed, there are too many others like them in the shelter or the shelter happens to be full at the time. Not only are these affectionate and loyal creatures treated as disposable while alive, they are often treated as disposable after their death. Some shelters do not have funding to pay for cremation, so they dispose of the bodies of dogs and cats in garbage bags and take them to landfills. No one ever talks about this. While it may be too painful to think about, cats and dogs who had no choice in being born will continue to be cruelly disposed of every day in mass numbers until we as individuals do something to stop it.
If you have trouble grasping the magnitude of 10,000 or more cats and dogs dying every day because no one wants them, try meeting a few of these pets in person. Go to your county shelter and take a look at each pet in the facility. Try to remember some of their names and faces. Now go back a week or two later. Most of the pets you saw during your first visit will be gone. Ask how many left the shelter alive. According to data published by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, only 25 percent of dogs and 24 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are adopted. Only 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats in shelters are reunited with their owners. That means at least 6 out of every 10 dogs and 3 out of every 4 cats that enter a shelter will never walk out of there alive.
You probably came to this website for information about wills, living trusts, probate or some other aspect of estate planning. You may wonder how the plight of homeless pets is relevant to your estate plan. The reality is the only way these animals can be saved is if enough money is made available to solve the problem. This will involve three things: 1. changing our laws to provide a more humane approach to unwanted pets; 2. educating the public about the causes of domestic animal overpopulation; and 3. funding the creation of more no-kill shelters to house unwanted pets until they are adopted. All of these efforts are dependent on charitable giving from private citizens. Through bequests from estates and charitable gifts to animal charities, the system of how America deals with unwanted animals can be changed.
While the reasons for making an estate plan vary, many people have two primary objectives when making a will or living trust. The first is to ensure those they love will be provided for after they are gone. The second goal is to leave a legacy that will make the world they leave behind a better place in some way. When you have your estate planning documents prepared, you can do both. First, ensure your pets will not end up in an animal shelter by making provisions for them in your estate plan. Second, you can leave a portion of your estate to a charity of your choice.
If you have a dog, cat or other animals, ask your attorney to include a pet trust in your estate plan. Find a pet caregiver or pet retirement home that will enter a legal agreement to provide a home for your pets if they survive you. Set aside money to pay the expenses of caring for your pets by funding a pet trust or using other estate planning methods such as life insurance. By including your animal companions in your estate plan, you can ensure they won’t spend their last days in fear waiting to be euthanized in an overcrowded animal shelter. To get started, see our free Estate Planning Guide for Pet Owners.
When you meet with a lawyer to plan your estate, the subject of minimizing estate taxes and other types of taxes may be discussed. There are distinct tax advantages to leaving property to a 501c3 charitable organization. If you would rather have part of your estate go to charity rather than being paid to the government in federal or state estate taxes, you may want to learn more about the tax benefits of charitable giving.
By naming a no-kill animal shelter or rescue league as a beneficiary of your will or trust, you will be providing homes for animals that would otherwise be euthanized. Humane societies and spay/neuter programs are also essential to stopping the overpopulation of unwanted domestic animals in the U.S. Most pet rescue organizations, humane societies, and spay/neuter programs are 501c3 non-profit charities. To learn more about making a charitable bequest to one of these organizations, visit our Animal Charities page. Please share this page with your friends and family by using the e-mail button below.