The Golden Retriever Club of America National Rescue Committee

If Something Happens to you: Providing for your Golden

In this day and age, we need to prepare for eventualities that could impact the care of our beloved Goldens.

Suppose you were in an automobile accident en route home from shopping.

Suppose your sudden accident was fatal.

Have you made emergency or long-term provisions for the care of your Golden?

Your golden deserves your careful thought and planning.

There are both short-term and long-term provisions to be considered. The following is a "quality care checklist" of steps to be taken to care for those four-footed furry love bugs with which you share your home.

Short-term Emergency Care

1. Put a notice on your door alerting emergency personnel that you have dog(s) in the house so that firemen or other emergency personnel will be alerted to look for an animal cowering under the bed or somewhere else out of sight.

2. Put a Pet Alert Card in your wallet, adjacent to the "Emergency Information Card" in most wallets, alerting emergency personnel to the fact that you have dogs at home that need care.

3. Alert your executor to your pet provision concerns and include financial provisions in your will for temporary boarding of your pets. In the event of your demise, your family's primary concern will be your funeral arrangements, not pet care. You may also wish to make use of a Letter of Instruction or a trust (see below.) Make it easy for everyone by reviewing your wishes with those concerned and making the proper provisions.

4. In the event of your death leave specific instructions as to the ultimate care of your Golden.

5. Be specific about the placement of your golden. Leave nothing to chance.

6. Including your pet in your Power of Attorney may be advisable if you have designated someone to act in your behalf while you are still alive, but incapacitated. Provisions for pet care can be spelled out in a Power of Attorney statement. You may also draw up a separate Power of Attorney form for your chosen pet care provider. Copies of this form should be given to your pet care provider, your veterinarian, your boarding kennel and your executor.

7. Write out important information about your dog and instruct someone where this document may be found. A file folder should include medical records, licensing information, special food needs, etc. But perhaps even more important, write a personality profile of your pet - its likes and dislikes, its good and its bad habits, its favorite playtime activity, the fact that it loves to chew ice cubes! Give the new owner all the information possible to facilitate your pet's transition to a new home.

8. Euthanasia is usually not a legal option. You may think that your pet cannot survive without you or that you have no family or Rescue group to which your Golden can be left, but do not leave instructions that the dog is to be euthanized in the event of your death because most courts have invalidated such instructions. Deal with it! Make provisions! Don't leave your Golden's fate hanging in the air. There are always viable options. Be advised, however, that if you leave your Golden to a friend or relative, that person becomes the legal owner and that person has the right to euthanize your pet.

Including Your Pet in Your Will

Dogs have a different status in different states. If a dog is considered "property" in your state, you cannot leave money for its care nor can you establish a trust for its care. Property cannot inherit property. In many states, if you leave money to an individual or organization for the care of your pet, that money will be subject to inheritance taxes. Talk to your lawyer about your state laws before you write provisions for pet care into your will. Always specify that the cost of food, veterinary care, transportation or temporary boarding care for your pet, while permanent arrangements are being made, will be taken from your estate funds.

1. Providing funds for pet care through cash or a trust must be done in accordance with state law. Most states do not permit any part of an estate to be left directly to an animal. Money can be left to a caretaker for your pet's care, but the care taker is under no legal obligation to use the money for that purpose. If a large amount of money is left to someone for this purpose, others may challenge the will unless an in terrorem clause is included in the will. Such a clause insures that if someone unsuccessfully challenges the will, said person cannot then receive property under any provision of the will.

2. Pet Trusts or Honorary Trusts can be another vehicle of care, however, they are expensive to administer.

In May, 2001 an effort was made by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) to create federal legislation (HR 1796) that would permit pets to be named as income recipients of charitable remainder trusts. It was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, however, as of March, 2005, no action had been taken on this bill.

Designating a Rescue Organization to Care for Your Golden

1. A Rescue Organization can provide the best care for your Golden if you do not have a close relative or family member who truly cares for your dog.

2. You should provide a bequest in your will if you elect to specify that your Golden go to a Rescue organization.

Your dog has given you its full trust and unconditional love. You must reward that faith by taking the necessary steps to provide for its well-being should you be unable to do so.


Include at least two phone numbers of family, friends or neighbors who can be called to provide short-term care for your pets should you be unconscious or so injured you are unable to address this need. Alert these temporary care-givers to the fact that you are doing this and instruct them where your pets are to be boarded should you be hospitalized and they are unable to provide daily care. Alert your boarding kennel to the fact that you are doing this and assure them that you have made appropriate financial provisions to cover boarding costs.

A Letter of Instruction is not a legal document, but if it includes your wishes for your funeral arrangements, it will, most likely be read! In this document you can specify how you wish the care of your pet(s) to be handled. BUT, as a letter of instruction is not legally binding, you might include the phrase, "As I have indicated in my will, I wish the following provisions to be carried out on behalf of my pets." This alerts people to the fact that there is also a LEGAL document addressing the subject! Then spell them out exactly as you have it in your will. This is especially important if you are leaving money to someone.

To be absolutely certain your wishes will be followed, you need to include provisions in your will and let all concerned - family, friends and executor - know that you are very serious about this! Designate a person you can trust to be sure your wishes are carried out in this regard. Unfortunately, pets sometimes get disposed of before anyone bothers to read the will! In other instances, interim care may be required until the will has been admitted to probate and the executor receives the authority to proceed. By the way, it is not necessary to rewrite a will every time you lose a pet or add another one if the will simply states that the provisions you are making apply to "my dog or dog(s) at the time of my death or incapacity." In some states, pet trusts are permissible, but caveate emptor, they are subject to change and sometimes unenforceable. (see below.)

You may have a relative or friend who has indicated they would take your dog, but suppose at the time of your demise (and you're not going to rewrite your will every year) you have more than one dog and your relative or friend doesn't want two new charges. Or perhaps, the party's circumstances have changed, a spouse doesn't want a pet, the landlord won't permit a pet, etc. Spell out a sequence of scenarios in your will, i.e. your pet(s) are to go to Person A, but if this party is unable to care for them, then to Person B or to your local Golden Retriever Rescue organization. (More about this later!) If you signed a contract with the dog's breeder specifying that the dog is to be returned to him or her, be certain to make note of this. Then talk to your breeder about this - should there be a family member who might be close to the dog and really want to care for it.

A trust that is separate from a will has certain advantages. It can be written to exclude the probate process and to provide for your pet in the event of your long-term illness. A Revocable Living Trust can be cancelled or changed while you are still alive. But you will have to pay a trustee to administer it. And, once again, you must ascertain if your state will recognize the validity of such a document when an animal is the beneficiary. As of January, 2005, there are State Pet Trust Statutes of one form or another on the books in 26 states: (AK, AZ, CA, CO, DC, FL, IL, IA, KS, ME, MI, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NJ, NM ,NY, NC, OR, TN, UT, WA, WI, WY.) When writing your legal documents, you will need to verify these statutes to determine if they have been amended or repealed, or if they are classified as "unenforceable."

There are nearly 100 such organizations in the United States and a full roster of these Rescue groups can be found on the website of the National Rescue Committee. But not all Rescue groups are equal. Some are new and some have long track records. Research your local Rescue group thoroughly. Ask questions. Ask to see their financial statements. Ask for references from their participating veterinarians. You want to feel reasonably certain that the group is going to be around when you need it! You may find that you need to go out of state to find a Rescue organization with which you are comfortable. Talk to the group's officers in advance, let them know of your wishes, and plan ahead as to how your dog will be transported to them when the time comes. And once again, remember to provide the finances for this transportation.

There are many advantages to stipulating that your Golden go to a Rescue group because most Rescue groups do home visits to carefully screen would-be adopters. Ask about their adoption procedures. Ask about their placement record for senior Goldens as your dog may be a senior when the need for placement arises. Rescue groups are run by volunteers who truly care about the breed and about securing "forever homes" for their charges. A Golden is not just any dog to a Rescue volunteer - it is a unique animal to which they are committing many volunteer hours in an effort to find loving homes for Goldens in need.

Be sure that the organization you elect has 501 c 3 charitable organization status to avoid the payment of inheritance taxes. Don't leave money to the organization "for the care of Rusty" because it creates problems the organization cannot manage. They can't adopt out a dog "with a dowry" because they would have no means of monitoring expenditures. The new owners can't be expected to go to the Rescue organization for payment of every vet bill - nor should they. Here is where faith and good will have to come into play. Leave your bequest to the Rescue organization for the care of Goldens in need. If YOUR Golden subsequently requires major medical care, you have to trust that the organization will provide it if the new owners are unable to do so. Your bequest is a statement of faith that you trust the organization to do right by your dog, if needed, and if not, to help other Goldens in need.