Leaving a legacy to your favourite animal charity is a kind and generous act. But the Pet Education Trust (PET) has recently been made aware of a number of pitfalls and so would urge anyone considering leaving a legacy to be very careful when writing their will, particularly with their wishes regarding a pet who outlives you.
If your will states that your pet is to be fostered or re-homed, unless carefully worded, this needn’t guarantee that this will actually be the outcome. PET issue this warning, since being made aware of a very sad incident whereupon an elderly lady had been found dead at her home in Peterborough, with her dog, Henry, laying faithfully by her side.
The lady was widowed and had lived on her own with no family for over 20 years. Henry (8) was the latest in a line of Golden Retrievers, who had kept this lady company over the years. He was a familiar sight to the neighbours as his owner took him out twice a day, happily padding alongside his owners mobility scooter. His owner’s greatest concern was what would happen to her beloved Henry in the event of her passing, so she had made arrangements in her will for him to be taken in by Wood Green Animal Shelter to be re-homed or fostered in return for them receiving her entire estate.
Henry was put to sleep 24 hours after being taken into the care of Wood Green. Following a basic veterinary assessment on the day Henry arrived and without any further tests (blood, scans, x-rays) being undertaken, Henry’s medical condition was deemed to be such that it would be unfair to continue his life and therefore be rehomed. There had been no consultation with his regular vet other than the passing over of records and no communication regarding the circumstances under which Henry had been found.
Close neighbours and friends of the lady have been left reeling at Wood Green’s decision, describing an eight year old, happy dog who enjoyed his twice daily walks, who loved to play ball in the garden and who only weeks earlier had relished rolling in the snow ‘like a puppy’. The owner had recently spoken to her next door neighbour of 48 years at her joy of hearing that Henry’s anti-inflammatory medication – which had been prescribed for mild arthritis and hip dysplasia – could be reduced following a Medication Review appointment at his vets in mid January. An appointment which he’d walked the 4 mile round trip to and from.
Unfortunately, when Henry’s owner signed up to Wood Green’s Pet Promise Scheme, she had not supplied any other contact details which would have enabled Wood Green to contact someone to speak about the dog. It’s not clear whether Henry’s death would have been prevented by this but it would have given the charity the chance to know more about the Henry everyone else knew as opposed to the Henry described in their veterinary report – and some background information on his last few days which were clearly responsible for his ‘distressed’ state when he arrived at the charity’s site in Godmanchester.
Anyone thinking of arranging legacies for their pets needs to be aware that there is no guarantee that their pet will not be put to sleep and that doing so does not invalidate a will.
PET are in no way suggesting that sick animals or those in a great deal of distress or pain should be kept alive in order to satisfy someone’s wishes in a will, but all animal charities should make a point of taking the time to access to as much information on the animal’s background as is possible before such a dramatic decision is made.
Finally, and because the law cannot guarantee your pet’s fate, it is worth considering very carefully who your legacy is left to. For further information on legacies please call the Pet Education Trust on 0845 257 2565.