Many families in NSW Australia have pets that are considered part of their family. The love and care that these families invest in their pets every day, is as important as the care they have for one another. As such, in the event that the pet owner(s) is no longer living and able to care for their pet, it is imperative that these families make provisions for the ongoing care and protection of their animals.
In NSW Australia there are four main options for the future care of your pet:
1. A legacy to a friend or relative with a non-binding request they look after your pet;
2. A legacy programme with an animal charity. This involves leaving a gift of money to the charity in exchange for the charity looking after your pet;
3. A trust for the care and maintenance of your pet;
Each of these options, as presented by the law society, are valid plans for the ongoing care of family pets. It is important to look at each option, and the benefits and pitfalls of each, before making a final determination as to how your pet will be cared for.
A Legacy to a friend
This is one of the simplest and most readily available options for many people. Oftentimes, there is a close family friend or family member who already has a warm and loving relationship with the pet in need. As such, this enables the pet to adjust more quickly and with greater ease to the loss of their owner. If this option appeals to you, then it is imperative that you have an honest discussion with the person you would like to gift your pet to in your will. Be sure to discuss the ongoing daily care needs of your pet, their food preferences, their veterinarian information, and their particular likes and dislikes of places and activities. It is also important and considerate to leave the caregiver a sufficient monetary stipend to care for the pet for the balance of its lifetime. The only negative aspect of this choice is that it is impossible for this type of clause to be made binding on the intended receiver. Therefore, it is a good idea to also nominate an alternate care giver in the event that the first chosen care giver is unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for the pet at the time that ownership needs to be transferred.
A Pet Legacy Program
In NSW the RSPCA operates a pet legacy program that is an option to all citizens for the care of their pets. Any pet owner can make a donation to the organisation and request the pet be placed in a facility for care by the RSPCA or given a new home within the community. This option can be used if a person is ill and can no longer care for their pet or upon the death of the pet owner. Hence this is a safe and reliable way in which pet owners can be assured that their pets will be cared for during a time of grave illness or death of the owner. However, it is necessary that the organisation be contacted and their particular requirements be met prior to the death of the owner, or via the owner’s will. The positive aspect of using this option is that your request will not be denied and you will have the opportunity to meet with those who will be making the arrangements for your pet’s care subsequent to your death.
A trust for a pet is becoming a popular way for pet owners to proceed. However, there are a few issues with regard to the enforcement of a trust for a pet. First, a pet is not able to make an application to the court for distribution of the trust’s assets for their ongoing care and well-being. As such, a trustee must be named to request the funds to care for the pet. It is imperative that a trustee be named who is willing and dedicated to properly distributing the trust. If the named trustee is willing to be responsible for the obligations created by the trust for the animal, then the court will recognise the trust.
Second, a guardian must also be selected to take over the daily care of the pet. It is important that the trust contain sufficient monetary assets to allow for the guardian to properly care for the pet for the duration of its life.
This option is also available to pet owners for their consideration. Some pet owners would prefer their pets not be left behind to experience the grief of losing their owner or their entire family. For some pet owners the idea of putting their pet through this type of emotional turmoil seems unfair at best and cruel at worst. However, this option can bring into question the issue of unnecessarily physically harming the animal. And while the issue has not yet been tested within the NSW’s courts, it is best to consult with a legal professional when considering this option.
Regardless of which option feels right for you and your family, it is important to do the following in all cases:
a) Have an open and honest discussion with any persons that you plan to leave in charge of the ongoing care of your animal regarding their willingness and dedication to carrying out these very significant responsibilities
b) Be sure that you leave assets for the ongoing care of your pet that will be sufficient to keep your pet well cared for during the duration of their life
c) Leave detailed information and instructions for the ongoing care of your pet for those who will be taking responsibility for the day to day care of your animal.
d) Review the option of your choice with a legal professional to ascertain if your plan is both legal and advisable.
For further information or inquiries, please contact the offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.