What Happens to My Dog if Something Happens To Me

It’s a topic most folks do not want to talk about, but it needs addressing. So our advice to you is this: Find out the answer to this question: “What happens to my dog if something happens to me” and read this article. Act on the things you need to and then do not think about it any longer.

Here’s what you need to know so that your dog is protected in the event you get ill, are unable to care for your dog, or you die. Since pets are a part of our families, knowing they are protecting should something happen to you is crucial. It is not the easiest of topics to explore, but it a necessary part of being a diligent pet parent.

What Happens to My Dog if Something Happens To Me

How to Leave a Legacy for Your Dog

In a radio interview with Peggy Hoyt, estate planning attorney and animal advocate, it came as a great surprise to learn that a will is not enough to protect your pets. In her book, All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet, Hoyt outlines planning for the future of your pet, planning for disability and death, and even estate planning for your pets. We highly recommend this book, as we find it to be a step-by-step, easy-to-follow guide to address this topic and be done with it.

What Happens to My Dog if Something Happens To Me

Create a Written Action Plan

One of the very first thing Hoyt states you must do is identify two people who agree to be responsible for your dog if something happens to you. That “something” includes incapacity, death, or unavailability due to natural disaster. The tumultuous weather phenomena over recent years proves why the latter in that list is important, too.

Assemble a binder or notebook with important documents in it for caregivers to access. Things Hoyt suggests include:

  • Medical history of the dog
  • Name, age, medications of the dog
  • Contact information for the dog’s veterinarian
  • Other family member information and contact
  • Location of estate planning and financial documents
  • Written instructions for caregivers
  • Contact info and names of people who will provide long-term care for your dog if the first choice of people are unable or unwilling
  • An emergency pet alert card. We at Fidose of Reality highly recommend and use the PetHub wallet card and suggest you snag one.
  • In case of emergency stickers for your home
  • Provisions in your estate plan (Hoyt says specifically this means powers of attorney, living trusts, wills, healthcare directives, and other planning documents) – according to state. Her book outlines these topics more in depth.
Dog writing at the computer
Dogs can’t write their own pet trust: You need to do it for them.

What is Estate Planning?

Proper estate planning allows you, the dog parent, to plan for yourself and your loved ones without relinquishing control of your affairs.

Traditional estate planning generally fails the dog parent because many people, including financial advisors, believe that estate planning is one single transaction. It is not.

Evacuations and Pets

If you must evacuate, take your pets. I tell you this from firsthand experience, as my family and I have emergently evacuated due to weather on more than one occasion. It is not for the weak of heart, but it can be done, especially if you are prepared. We were and are prepared for natural disaster and taking our dog with us.

Hoyt agrees and says, “Pets that are left behind can easily be injured, lost, or killed.”

CLICK THIS: What Happens During a Mandatory Evacuation

Arlington National Cemetery no longer pet friendly

Can My Dog Inherit My Estate?

Hoyt says no, as a general rule, pets cannot inherit your estate, meaning your property or money. She writes about legacy planning techniques if you want to bequeath your estate out.

Death Planning Options

The three options Hoyt explores for death planning include wills, trusts, or doing nothing; each of these has pros and cons. Estate planning, she says, is not about documents—it is about the results you want to accomplish.

The Pet Plan and Pet Trust Guide

Years ago, I encountered a book, The Pet Plan and Pet Trust Guide, written by attorney Kimberly Adams Colgate. Our favorite feature of the book is that of the fill-in-the-blank pet trust form.

modern family Fidose

Providing for Your Pet After You Are Gone

There are three basic ways to provide care for your dog should you die and those include a will, a trust, and an agreement.

(1) Will: This is by far the most common document most pet parents believe they need to protect their pets if they die. A will “will not” necessarily protect them, as the instructions in the will are not automatically carried out. A probate for the court must get involved and can be costly. A will is better than no specific directive, but there are more effective ways to plan for your pet’s care upon your demise.

(2) Trust:  In a trust, money to care for your pet is in place, so whatever Fido or Fluffy needs is there. The management care plan Hoyt describes is also a part of the trust. Third, and very important, the care you direct in the management care plan provides the methodology to do so.

(3) Agreement:  The security of a mere agreement is not very strong, whether that agreement is in writing or verbal.

Bottom Line: What Happens to My Dog

A well-drafted pet trust can address all of the above and ensure that your dog is well cared for and that plans are in place as you desire.

Dog Related Resources If Something Happens To You

Book:  All My Children Wear Fur Coats: How to Leave a Legacy for Your Pet

Book: Fat Cats and Lucky Dogs: How to Leave Some of Your Estate to Your Pet

Website and Further Reading: Estate Planning for Trusts on Nolo.com

medicine versus mom

Medicine Vs Mom

In an ongoing effort to provide dog parents with the most valuable resources for health and wellness, we invite you to visit the blog of My Kid Has Paws, where former veterinary technician and fellow pet blogger, Rachel Sheppard, discusses the topic of caring for her your dog if you cannot.

Listen to Our Podcast

Listen to Peggy Hoyt and Carol Bryant, yours truly: Dogs and You Podcast

Note: Be sure to always consult an attorney/get legal help when it comes to legal documents and planning. We are not lawyers but want to provide you resources for further exploration and consideration.

Are your pets protected in the event something happens to you?


  1. What a great post ! That’s a very important question, and you give wonderful advice ! Fortunately, Claire and Momo already talked about death years ago, and about what would happen to the remaining human, and to the kitties, if there is no human left. They didn’t think of everything you’re mentioning though, and they are going to discuss some points during the next days ! Purrs

  2. You’ve written such an excellent and important post, and you’re right about not wanting to think about it. I don’t know anyone who would take my animals should anything happen to us, and that’s as far as I’ve ever thought. I’m definitely being irresponsible by avoiding making a plan so I’m going to get my a** in gear and figure it out!

  3. What a great post and advice. It’s something we certainly don’t want to think about but it really is important to have a plan in place. This not only has me thinking about my own dogs but my family member’s dogs as well. Thanks for getting those wheels turning!

  4. This is an important topic that every pet parent should think about. My husband has promised to keep the dogs if something happens to me, If something happens to both of us, I have a pretty big family, so I am confident that someone will take in my dogs if needed. However, I should set up something to make it less of a burden.

  5. Getting those written plans and agreements in order is such a good idea. I keep emergency medical information for myself and my kitties on our refrigerator, but I really need to have more comprehensive plans. You never know what will happen in life. I had a friend that was super fit, successful, and had a great family life. However, he went for a walk in the woods behind his house, a tree fell on him, and he died at the age of 41. It was a huge shock to everyone! You just can’t guess what may happen tomorrow.

  6. This is critical advice! My husband and I have a revocable trust, which we put in place before getting our dogs. However, we haven’t added the dogs to it which we really need to do. We had an informal plan for my sisters to take the dogs but then they moved to another state & their apartment building doesn’t allow pets. Now we need to find new guardians for them as well.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  7. I have this totally covered, my neighbor has keys to my apartment with a list of all for her, plus the phone number of a good friend who volunteers big time with one of the Rescues in the city and she is going to adopt Layla, she knows everything about her and wants her.
    Layla also has a disk on all her harnesses (3 of them lol) with all details, etc and this disk can be scanned by any cell phone to find me or my friend.

    I am totally relaxed about Layla if something happens to me as I know she is going to a wonderful loving happy home where she will be spoiled rotten.

  8. this is something we looked in to when we had a rash of urgent rescues online that invllved ‘owner decease’ it still happens now and it is absolutely and totally desperate and does not need to happen.

    Vets need to be brought up to speed on this and speak to all their clients about it – worldwide not just in the USA. We have lost too many lives due to owners not taking care of their pets at this most critical time.

  9. Yikes, you are right, I have not addressed this. If something happened to me, I assume the hubby would continue to care for Kilo maybe a little grudgingly (Kilo is a Momma’s Boy with issues). If we were both killed, my daughter and a long-time family friend who lives with us would continue. If all of us were wiped out, Kilo could be in trouble as we do not have family near. He is very challenging – I can’t think of any friends who would take him and make him happy and safe but I think the 2 pug rescues I know could find someone with the right experience and situation. I will have to take a look at our will as we have not updated it for years. Good reminder thanks.

  10. I can’t even count the number of dogs and cats at the shelter where I volunteer that end up there because something has happened to their parents and no arrangements were made. I am sure these animals were loved, but sadly their families didn’t think to make arrangements. So awful to see these babies so confused, frightened and alone.

    Everyone should make a plan for their own animals. I have also started reaching out to my elderly relatives to make sure they have plans for fur babies.

  11. We have estate planning set up for our dogs – money set aside for them and everything. You have to set it up like they’re your kids! It’s so necessary to plan for, thanks for writing about this!

  12. This is such a scary thought, but a very important article. I didn’t used to worry too much because Truffle and Brulee’s breeder would always take them if something happened, but now she’s not in the business anymore. I need to give some serious consideration to this.

  13. I don’t currently have any plans in place, but I definitely need to. With as many pets as I have, it could definitely get crazy if I don’t have clearly outlined plans. Thanks for the push to do so, and for all the helpful information!

  14. I’ve been meaning to get to this and look into laws where I live. I’ve already asked people if they’d take my pets but I haven’t put it on paper yet and plan to leave $ for their care. This became a ‘top of mind’ concern when I was recently tested for a brain tumor … they didn’t find one.
    But I’m still going to make a will. You should see how I drive.

  15. To be honest, this is something I know is so important, but I really have not thought about. Mostly because I hate the thought. But you are so right in saying this is something everyone needs to face!

  16. Very good advice considering I have a dog and a cat as a result of their owners not planning for their care in case of death. We don’t have a plan either but we are getting up in age so basically our plan is to not adopt a pet that can outlive us so the family we have now is pretty much it. There’s always foster!

  17. We have a will and a fund set up for his care. Including immediate fund release if his new caretaker (known as his sister-mom) has to fly overseas to go get him. So glad I put it all in place.

  18. Great post, Carol! Every once and awhile I think about that fact that I could die before my precious dog but I’ve never put any steps into action that would ensure his care if I passed away. I am bookmarking this article and following all the steps in it immediately! Thanks again!

  19. I LOVE the resources you listed here Carol! I am going to check out the PetHub wallet card right away. I think one of the most important pieces of information is to keep in mind that the laws that can protect your dog vary by state. So if you move, you will need to re-document everything to update for your current state’s laws.

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