What to do With a Pet When the Owner Dies

23 August 2017

When someone dies leaving behind a pet, it can pose problems for those responsible for administering the deceased person’s Estate. However, there are a number of different options available, with many animal shelters able to help.

Co-op Funeralcare offer a Pet Card to keep in your wallet. Should something happen to you, the card alerts others that your pet is home alone. Pet Cards are available from your local Co-op Funeralcare home.

Who’s Responsible for a Pet Left Behind?

In the UK, we’re often described as a ‘nation of animal lovers’. The figures certainly suggest that’s true, and in 2016 it was estimated that 40% of households in the UK had pets.

But what happens when someone dies and leaves behind a pet? This happens quite frequently. A common situation is that an elderly person has a dog or cat, but after an illness or injury the owner sadly dies, leaving their much loved pet behind.

If someone close to you has recently died and you’re now wondering what to do with their pet, the first thing to do is to check whether or not there’s a Will. If your loved one left a Will, it’s possible he/she made provisions for their pet. For more information, see How to Provide for Pets in Your Will.

For instance, the Will might say that their pet dog Rover should be cared for by their eldest daughter Sally. If so, you’ll have clear instructions on what the deceased person wanted.

However, there’s no obligation for Sally to accept responsibility for Rover. Just because that’s what the Will says, doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what has to happen. Sally’s situation might have changed since the Will was written, or she may never have agreed to care for Rover in the first place.

If the nominated person doesn’t want to take on the pet, or the Will doesn’t make any other specific provisions, then the Executors of the Will are responsible for the animal. This is because when someone dies, the Executors of the Will become responsible for all of the deceased person’s assets – in English Law this includes pets.

So, it will therefore be up to the Executors to try and find a new home for the pet.

If there isn’t a Will, there won’t be anyone immediately responsible for the deceased person’s pet. What happens in these situations will vary on a case by case basis. It may be that the Administrator of the Estate, or someone close to the deceased, welcomes the pet into their home or sets about finding a new owner.

Alternatively there might not be anyone willing and able to accept responsibility for the pet, in which case someone will need to contact a local animal shelter or charity to find the pet a new loving home.

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