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We know that good pet owners strive to care for their pets for the entire lives of their pet. But what happens when a pet outlives an owner? This topic is not a pleasant one to consider, but it’s important. We currently have several animals in the South Jersey Regional Animal Shelter who wound up in our care because their owners passed away. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for the pets of deceased people to be found only when the authorities are called in; sometimes these animals have been fending for themselves for an unknown period of time. Countless others are released by their owner’s family members, who cannot care for them. We can’t imagine how traumatizing this must be for the animals.

Angel was brought in this weekend; her owner passed away and she was alone in the home with no food or water for a week. Needless to say, she was dehydrated and starving by the time the authorities arrived, and animal control brought her to the shelter. She’s an incredibly sweet tabby cat who seems so relieved to have humans caring for her again. Her owner must have loved her very much; cat toys were right next to him when he was found. We’re working on getting Angel healthy and then she will be available for adoption.

Jett, a handsome black Labrador who’s about 5 years old, also was brought in by animal control officers when his owner passed away recently. Jett also was confused and hungry – he was upset in his kennel but quickly wolfed down a big bowl of food and settled in quickly. He’s in our adoption room; we are trying to see if his owner had any family that will claim him and, if not, he will be available for adoption.

Blue is a gorgeous Russian Blue cat that was found with another female cat when their owner was found deceased by the authorities. Blue had it even worse; his female companion would attack him and he was forced to hide, which led to him becoming very withdrawn. At the shelter, the cats were miserable. Fortunately, the female, Elsa, was adopted and Blue was moved to foster care. He’s doing very well in his foster home, but is still looking for a forever home to give him all the love he needs.

These situations also serve as reminders of the role that neighbors serve. Be aware and be thoughtful; if you have neighbors who are elderly or who are struggling, check on them. Make sure they have your phone number in case of emergencies. If you see the lawn growing, the car not being moved, and no one coming to visit, a knock on the door or a phone call for help can be the difference between life and death – not just for the animals, but for your neighbor as well. Even if all is well, your actions aren’t without reward; perhaps you can provide some companionship for someone who may be lonely or struggling.

No one knows what the future holds, so it’s important for all pet owners to consider what would happen to their pets in the case of an emergency. Owners can make arrangements for their pets in their wills or through trusts. However, this doesn’t address an emergency situation in which the animal is alone when an owner passed or is incapacitated. For these situations, it’s advised that you carry a wallet “alert card” that lists the pets that depend on you for care. You should also place “In Case of Emergency” removable decals on your windows so emergency responders know to look for your pets. This decal can be ordered on the ASPCA website, which also has sample wallet alert card templates. Keep vet records, licenses, and other important paperwork for the pets in an easy-to-find and accessible location. Make sure family or friends know what your plan is for your pets if you are in need of help.

For more information about how to provide for your pets in case of emergency, you can contact the Humane Society of the United States Office of General Counsel at (202) 452-1100, Ext. 3320. And for the animals at the shelter that are hoping for a second chance after heartbreak, please stop in anytime to meet them.

Source: What happens when pets outlive their owners

Posted in 2017, SJRAS Articles