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Will your pet be cared for when you're gone?

Saturday - 5/25/2013, 7:44am  ET

WASHINGTON - The new faces showing up at area animal shelters are actually old ones. Dogs and cats whose owners have died are now finding that their final home is a cage.

"I call it an emotional roller coaster," says Chief Rodney Taylor, associate director at Prince George's County Animal Management Division. "They come in and they are so frightened. They are wondering where they are and why they are there."

These older pets, due to age and health concerns, are not considered highly adaptable.

"The average adopter that walks in the door doesn't really want to start with medical issues," says Taylor.

Taylor's team at the shelter socializes these older dogs and reduces their adoption fees to make them more attractive to potential adopters.

But what's the best way to ensure that a four-legged companion does not end up in a shelter? Taylor says putting a pet in a person's will helps assure that someone will take care of them when their owner is gone.

"We make sure the proper provisions are put into place to appoint someone to step in to oversee the care of their pets, just like a guardian is appointed for children," explains Mindy Felinton, a law attorney who specializes in estate planning.

She recommends designating a caregiver and a backup person to ensure that an animal will be able to live the rest of its life in a caring and loving home. These provisions in a will include leaving enough money for vet fees and food, along with whatever fee a caregiver may require.

"We just don't know what life is going to bring, and while we think we will outlive our pets, that may not be the case," says Felinton, who recommends planning for a pet's future the second it is brought home.

Felinton says taking these steps means it is less likely a pet will wind up alone at a shelter, or worse, face possible euthanasia.

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