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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Trust in Me

The recent mortgage crisis has taken its toll not only on homeowners, but also on their pets. Animal protection groups and lawmakers are pitching in to help, and media outlets such as USA Today and CNN are reporting on the plight of four-legged foreclosure victims.

Dog_cat_together_istock_000 The news has caused me to think about responsible pet ownership, and preparedness in general. When we bring a companion animal into our family, we make a lifelong commitment to provide for that animal's care. Pets can be costly, as reported recently by the New York Times, and we should only bring them into our lives if we know we can handle the cost of pet food, veterinary care, and other needs. If we are forced to move or our financial circumstances change, we should do all in our power to keep these family members safe with us.

That lifetime commitment of responsible care should even extend beyond us. People often assume they will outlive their pets, but we must prepare for the unexpected and be sure to provide for our pets' future in case we are the ones to pass away first. If we just leave it to chance without proper planning, our pets might end up being relinquished to an animal shelter, abandoned, or euthanized, rather than with a trusted friend or relative. By planning for your pet's future, you not only can help your own dog or cat, but also can help to relieve society's burden of caring for and sheltering millions of homeless animals.

More and more pet owners are making provisions for longterm animal care in their estate planning, and more and more attorneys and tax advisors are offering this service to give their clients the peace of mind that their pets will be cared for. Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that recognize pet trusts, which are funds specifically set aside to pay for your pet's care after you are gone.

It's important that we have a national policy, too. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Rep. Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) have introduced H.R. 2491, the Charitable Remainder Pet Trust Act, which would allow the establishment of pet trusts under the federal tax code. It's a sensible policy that will help people and pets and will encourage responsible planning. Ask your members of Congress to support the Charitable Remainder Pet Trust Act to give these four-legged family members the vital safety net they need.

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