Oddly Enough

Pet lovers hope to get new law on wills

BOSTON (Reuters) - Pet lovers in Massachusetts are optimistic the governor will sign into law this week that will allow them to designate in a will who should care for a pet after the owner’s death.

A woman walking her vastly different sized dogs provides a study in contrast in downtown Washington February 25, 2008. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Governor Deval Patrick has until Sunday to sign the pet trust legislation. Massachusetts lags behind many U.S. states in enacting a law governing pet care after an owner’s death.

“It’s become clear this is something that’s important to people,” said Kara Holmquist, director of advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The bill, introduced in January 2009, makes a pet owner’s decision about who will care for their pet an enforceable mandate. Currently, if money is left to a specified caretaker and they do not use it for the pet, there is no legal recourse.

Leaving money and instructions behind for pet care is not just a sentimental gesture by animal lovers who consider pets family, said Holmquist.

It also relieves the financial burden on towns that are often left to foot the bill for food and shelter when pets are abandoned.

Donna Turley, a Boston-based attorney who helped draft the legislation, said the Massachusetts bill also allows people who are no longer able to care for pets but still living to set up trusts.

The bill also permits court intervention if the amount of money left for pet care is excessive, said Turley.

In her experience, people tend to leave $5,000 to $10,000 per animal, but notes that care for horses can be much more expensive.

The cost to add a provision to a will leaving money to someone for pet care is minimal, Turley said.

Reporting by Lauren Keiper, Editing by Greg McCune