How Pet Owners Can Plan for Unexpected Medical Emergencies

2 minute read

When a person has an accident or illness that requires hospitalization, or unexpectedly passes away, it can be a confusing time for friends and family. Pets are often overlooked in these situations, which can leave them without care for prolonged periods of time. A frightened pet may hide and go undiscovered, or may flee your home when rescue workers enter.

There are some precautions you can take to help ensure your pet receives care in the event of a medical emergency.

Emergency Caregiver

First, choose someone to be an emergency caregiver. It is wise to consider a second person as well, in case your first choice is unavailable. Make sure they can gain access to your home and know where your pets are likely to be.

Provide your caregivers with a printed document with your pets’ feeding and care instructions, including details about administering any necessary medication or specialty food. Your veterinarian’s name and contact information should also be on this document. Keep a copy in your own home, and make sure they know where it is.

Power of Attorney for Pet Care

In some cases, it can be helpful to give Power of Attorney to your chosen pet caregiver. This can enable them to seek veteterinary care for your pets, if necessary while you are in the hospital.

There are two types of Powers of Attorney: “durable” and “springing”. A durable Power of Attorney goes into effect the moment you sign it, while a springing Power of Attorney goes into effect when you are incapacitated. Although the latter is preferrable at times, it can also create delays while determinations about your legal capacity are made.

Friends and Neighbors

Let your friends, family, and neighbors know that you have pets, how many you have, and what kind. Provide them the names and contact information of your pets’ emergency caregivers, so that they can be contacted as quickly as possible if needed.

In an emergency, the more people know who to contact and where your pets should go, the more likely it is that there will be someone present who has the information.

Emergency Workers

A clear and obvious notice on doors and windows will help rescue workers identify how many and what kinds of pets you have. This will let them know what to expect when they enter your home, and will help keep both them and your pets safer.

Be wary of permanent signs or stickers. Because residents don’t always remove these, a rescue worker may assume an older-looking notification is out-of-date. A removeable paper notice secured with something non-permanent like staples or tape is more likely to appear current.

Print your chosen pet caregivers’ names and contact information in a place that is easy to spot, such as on the inside of all exterior-facing doors. It is also useful to keep a copy of this information on an alert card that you carry with you.

Long-Term Emergency

If longer-term care is needed, it is better to have a more formal arrangement. An attorney can create a pet guardianship agreement for you, either as a part of your overall estate plan or as a separate document.