Around two-thirds of Australians have a cat or dog or both.  However, very few of us have a plan in place should we find ourselves unable to look after our pet due to an emergency or a change in circumstances.

British fashion designer Alexander McQueen had three dogs Minter, Juice and Callum at the time of his suicide in 2010. McQueen left a note ending with “Please look after my dogs. Sorry, I love you. Lee.” McQueen left 50,000 pounds in his will – “for the upkeep and maintenance of my dog or dogs so long as my dog or dogs shall live”.

Perth Socialite Rose Porteous has left $1 million in her will to each of her three poodles, Lulu, Dennis and Snoopy.  Any money left over after the dogs pass away will go to Perth’s Rescue Centre for Poodles.

Who will look after your pet when you’re gone? We share three options to consider to ensure your pet has a good quality of life for the rest of their lifetime should you have an emergency or pass away.

Who will look after your pet when you’re gone – 3 options 

  1. Guardian – provide a legacy to a friend or relative with a non-binding request they look after your pet
  2. Charity – a pet legacy programme with an animal charity. This involves leaving a gift of money/bequest to the charity in exchange for the charity to either re-home your pet or to place them in a facility that these charities operate especially for pets of people who have passed away or are unable to care for their pet due to age or illness. For your peace of mind, you may also wish to visit their facilities to ensure that your pet would be happy with the accommodation
  3. Pet Trust in your will for the care and maintenance of your pet.
Rose Porteous and her poodles Dennis and Lulu. Picture: dailytelegraph/Frances Andrijich

Rose Porteous and her poodles Dennis and Lulu. Picture: dailytelegraph/Frances Andrijich

Pitfalls to watch out for!

Animals are classified as property under Australian law and a trust for the maintenance of a pet will not be enforced by an Australian court if the trustee is not prepared to carry out its terms. It is important that you choose a trustee who is wise and dependable and will genuinely carry out the terms of the trust.

Ruth Pollard of the NSW Trustee & Guardian said ‘you need to be really careful in drafting up wills in these sorts of circumstances because you want to make sure that the pet is the pet, and the carer doesn’t substitute pets to ensure they continue to benefit from the financial provision.’

Whatever option you choose for your pet, it is IMPORTANT to consider:

  • your pet’s expected lifespan
  • your pet’s behaviour and needs
  • the cost of the upkeep of your pet for the rest of their life
  • who will look after your pet should you die – are they reliable?

Who will look after your pet sources

Looking after the loved ones article by Adam Bell
NSW Trustee & Guardian
Sydney Lawyers, Clinch Long LetherBarrow