What will happen to your pets and livestock when you die?

While you’re organizing your records and considering loved ones wrapping up your affairs, you may wonder how to plan for your pets and livestock. What will happen to them when you die? Who will take them and care for them? Here are some tips for planning care for your animals when you’re no longer able.

Today, while you have the time and you’re able to do so, take the following steps:

1. Identify a home. Identify the type of home you’d like for your animals—whether you have a pet to give to someone with a loving home or livestock to be sold to someone able to care for the animals.

2. Review with caregivers. Contact the potential caregivers and review your wishes with them. Ensure that they would be willing to adopt or to purchase the animals. If not, contact others, perhaps reconsidering the ideal home you have in mind, until you find a good fit.

3. Document your wishes. Document your plans in your Get It Together planner so that your loved ones know your wishes and plans.

4. Document routine care. Also document the routine care you provide for the animals. Provide instructions for food, ongoing medical care, and veterinarian contact information.

5. Consider a bequest. You can easily leave an amount of money to the caregiver by including the bequest in your will. In your will, designate the amount, the caregiver beneficiary, and the purpose of the funds (for example, “$3,000 to Jane Doe, niece, for food, shelter, and veterinary care for Spot”).

For your pets, you have several alternatives when considering homes—including family and friends, rescue programs, the SPCA, and veterinary schools.

Rescue Programs

While most popular for dogs, rescue programs abound for all types of animals—including cats, horses, elephants, ferrets, pot-bellied pigs, and turtles. Rescue programs provide interim care (usually in a sanctuary or a foster home) while a permanent home is found.

You can find an appropriate rescue program through the Internet, typing “rescue program” and the species and breed of your pet into a search engine such as Google—for example, “rescue program dogs Golden Retriever” or “rescue program horses palomino.”


If you are a member of the SPCA, the organization will find a home for your pet and provide lifetime veterinary care. For more information, contact your local SPCA.

Veterinary Schools

Some veterinary schools will provide a home (at the school) and lifetime veterinary care for your pet if you leave an endowment to the school. For more information, contact the veterinary school of a university near you.

Our pets and livestock provide us with comfort and income for today. If you make arrangements now, you’ll enjoy peace of mind knowing that you’ve planned for their care once you are gone.


Melanie Cullen is the author of Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To (Nolo), a workbook/CD-ROM for preparing and organizing your important records—for yourself and for your loved ones. She is a management consultant with TerraSys Consulting, Inc. and serves on the Projects@Work editorial board. She holds an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.


Images: Flickr Creative Commons, davco9200 (top) and uncle.capung

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