The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA) recently rolled out its new program "A Plan for Pets," and four cats, named Aslan, Church, Phineas and Toulouse, were the first to benefit from it. The owner of these four cats had a terminal illness and valued having her cherished pets around her while she was in home hospice care, but she worried about what would happen to them after she died since none of her friends or family members could take them.
Without “A Plan for Pets,” AWLA’s Animal Services officers would have likely been called when she died. They would have had only a small window of time to catch the cats, a very stressful experience for the animals. The cats would have been brought to the shelter and placed in separate cages while the staff pieced together their medical and behavioral needs from observations and examinations made at the shelter. They would not have known that two of them were bonded and should be housed together or that they were used to special diets or that they were all very friendly despite an initial fear of strangers. Since the cats are all seniors, they would have had an even tougher than normal time adjusting to the shelter and would have likely taken many months to get adopted. The shelter probably would have had to hold them for many weeks while determining next of kin since pets are considered property under the law and subject to estate law upon death.
Thanks to “A Plan for Pets,” AWLA was able to eliminate this period of confusion and stress for these four cats. The staff worked with their owner before her death to learn about her cats’ behaviors, personalities, medical histories and special needs and made sure they all had current veterinary exams. The owner also filled out a “Transfer on Death” form for each cat, so that upon her passing, the cats would become the legal property of the AWLA and did not have to wait to determine if anyone would claim ownership. After she died, AWLA was able to get everything in place to quickly make the cats available for adoption. The staff shared the stories of the four cats on Facebook, and the Alexandria community stepped up: All four cats were adopted immediately, without any of them having to stay at the shelter for even one night.
While no one hopes that their pets will outlive them, the AWLA wants to help pet owners consider what might happen in that situation. For more information on “A Plan for Pets,” look out for notices about upcoming free workshops in early fall or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria is an independent, local, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that operates the animal shelter for the City of Alexandria. The AWLA is committed to ending animal homelessness, promoting animal welfare, and serving as an educational resource for the City of Alexandria community. More information is at AlexandriaAnimals.org.