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Protecting People and Their Pets

“I have an animal at home” – Protecting your pet when you are unable

RaeannRaeann G. LeBlanc, DNP, ANP/GNP-BC, CHPN, University of Massachusetts AmherstAs reported in last week’s Good Life series on animal companionship and health, evidence supports that living with and caring for an animal companion can be good for or health: reducing stress and those diseases associated or exacerbated by stress, improving social support and companionship, and keeping us more active both socially and physically. Animal companions can also pose a risk and be put in their own positions of harm if we do not plan ahead. One risk factor that can emerge is how our animal companions might challenge our risk prioritization and influence our decisions should there become a risk of separation. For example, if a personal health problem arises, there may be a delay in seeking care because of a fear of being separated from or unable to care for an animal companion. Though most people do not want to think about the worst case scenario of their own illness or death, it can have significant impacts on animals as well as others in our life.

Advanced planning for the health and welfare of our animal companions is an important preventative step. Addressing the concern of who will care for your pet should you become hospitalized or in need of rehabilitation or long-term care – or in any case where you cannot take care of your pet – is a key aspect of responsible pet ownership. To be sure that your pet does receive the care they need, it is important to plan ahead. According to the Humane Society of the United States, in the confusion that accompanies a person’s unexpected illness, simple steps can be taken to ensure the responsible care of your pet and ensure both your health is met through timely access to medical care and the needs of your pet are met by having designated caregivers.

First, find at least two responsible friends or family members who agree fully to serve as emergency caregivers (be sure they agree and know they are being designated) and provide them with instructions on the care of your pet, veterinarian contact information, and access to your home; provide information about how these caregivers can communicate with each other. Another important step is to complete a wallet “alert card” (see below). Have a pet alert card in your wallet and one in a prominent place in your home that lists the names and phone numbers of your emergency pet caregivers and the names and types of pets in your home. Making these arrangements for temporary caregiving can prevent delay in care for you and your animal companions.

I have an animal at home card