Planning For Your Pets When You Cannot Take Care of Them

This document was produced by the Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare, an initiative of the Community Foundation For Southern Arizona   (October, 2016)


Work with an attorney.


Prepare NOW in case of an unexpected illness, accident, or death.


Below are some tips to help you prepare for the unexpected.


Identify at least 2 people to be immediate, temporary emergency pet caregivers.  

  • Make sure they have a way to get inside your home, know when and what to feed your pets, who your veterinarian is, and what your arrangements are for permanent care of your pet.
    • Clarify financial arrangements ahead of time. Will they be paid for their time? Reimbursed for any food, supplies, veterinary bills, transportation, etc.?
  • Make sure your neighbors, friends, and relatives know how many pets you have and the names and contact numbers of your emergency caregivers.
  • In your wallet, have a card listing the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers.
  • Post, in a clearly visible place inside your home, the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers, along with your pet’s food and medical needs.


Plan for longer-term or permanent care for your pets.

  • If you have several pets, determine if all will go to the same person or if they need to be split up with different people.
    • It is best to identify people who already have a relationship with your pets.

You should have complete trust in their ability to properly care for your pet.

  • Identify ‘backup’ caregivers, in case your first choice is unable to help at the time.
  • Before naming, be sure the new caregiver(s) understand the responsibility that they will be assuming – becoming the new owner of your pets.
  • Assess if you will be able to, or want to, provide any financial resources to the new owners for the long-term care of your pets.
  • If you adopted your pets from a shelter or rescue organization, check your paperwork to see if they require notification of your situation, return of the animal, and/or if they will be able to help care for your pets.
  • If unable to identify specific people, it is possible to direct your executor or personal representative named in your legal document to place your pets.
  • Create documents that clearly identify your wishes for how your pets are to be cared for, who is to take ownership, and any money that will go to the new owners.
  • Create documents that arrange for long-term care of your pets if you become ill or incapacitated, in addition to their care upon your death.


  • Consider granting broad discretion to the executor about making decisions and utilizing estate fund for your pet’s well-being – to help ensure proper care is given to your pets in a manner that any responsible and devoted pet owner would. Never leave money directly to a pet.
  • Understand how long it generally takes for directives in the type of document you create will take effect. Will they be accomplished in days, weeks, or months?  Having a temporary caregiver in place can help if it will be a lengthy process.


These local non-profits have programs to care for pets after a person passes.

Guardian Angels at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA):

Based on criteria you provide, your pet will be placed in a loving family. To enroll in the Guardian Angel program, you designate an estate gift such as an endowment, trust fund, life insurance policy or gift annuity to HSSA with a minimum amount of $2,500. An additional plan for $10,000 per pet provides more benefits for your pet and your peace of mind.  Learn more, call HSSA at 520-321-3704.


Hearts that Purr Feline Guardian Program:

Have peace of mind that your cats will be taken care when you pass. You will complete a form to let Hearts that Purr gain an understanding of your cat’s lifestyle and needs as the first step in enrolling in the program. They request you make an annual donation and designate Hearts that Purr receive a financial contribution as part of your estate plans in an amount estimated to care for your pet’s remaining years.  Once enrolled in the Guardian Program, they may also be able to help care for your cat should you be hospitalized. Learn more, call 520-297-3780.


Furever Friends Rescue:

Will take a pet from Pinal or Maricopa counties and adopt it out. Priority given to pets of people moving into assisted living or hospice, or who passed. Call 602-750-2283.


NOTE: This document is intended to provide general information and to be a source of thought for discussion and planning.  It is not intended to provide or to be a substitute for legal advice.

This document was produced by the Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare, an initiative of the Community Foundation For Southern Arizona. (October, 2016)