Appoint by Debra A. Vey Voda-Hamilton

Twitter Facebook Google Plus Pinterest

In our initial discussion of navigating the journey your pets take if you cannot care for them we talked about creating a MAAP (Make a plan, Address needs, Appoint caregivers, Publish plan). This MAAP will help others care for your pets in the way you intended. People think the only time they need a plan for their pet’s care is when they die. I thought so too until I broke my ankle. I had no plan in place to help my family care for my pets and me. This experience spurred me to write the initial MAAP program. Pet owners need a MAAP plan to cover their animal’s care if they are sick or injured. This year I realized they need this plan as well if a family member is injured or sick. I learned that this year when my husband broke his shoulder. My MAAP plan gave me the freedom to care for my loved one while my surrogates cared for my pets. It gave me peace of mind that my pets were receiving great care. You too will want/need to spend time with your family member during their recovery. That’s why this third piece to the MAAP plan is so important:


You should appoint pet caregivers who will take over the current needs of your pet.  If a life-altering circumstance occurs, to you or a loved one, that limits your ability to keep your pet you will need people to step up and engage for the welfare of your pets. Appointing three caregivers in succession helps hedge your bet with respect to who will be able to step into your shoes, and only one can be a family member.  This is very important. If you cannot care for your pet, chances are you are in need of assistance, which your family will provide, or a family member is in need of assistance, which you are providing. Having people in place to look after your pet will be a welcome relief to you, your family, and the animals. 

Check in often with the people you appoint to care for your pets. This will assure that they remember and can confirm with you while they still can. People often agree to care for your dog or cat when circumstances permit. However, things change in their lives, they forget to tell you, and when you call upon them to take care of your pet they may not be able to follow through. You need to know that before it occurs.

Having people available to help with your pets is a lifesaver. You won’t feel guilty neither spending time with your loved one nor because your pet is left alone. You have a plan in place where, regardless of the situation, the people and pets are taken care of completely, giving you less stress and more peace of mind.

Now the big question arises. Where do you begin to look for those people who will fill your space in your pet’s life short/long term? We spoke at length last time about addressing the needs of your pet. Having those directives in place will make finding a surrogate infinitely easier. With the right help and guided exploration, finding these caregivers is easier than you think. They are usually right under your nose.

Think about where you and your dog go. Are there people you meet at the dog park or on your daily walks?  When you are at your veterinarian’s office is there a vet tech or two who especially like you and your pet? How about your groomer?  If you do not have any people in your life who seem to fit this equation then you will need to cultivate relationships with people who may be open to helping you care for your pet. If they have pets and you explain the need you could work out a reciprocal arrangement that will give you each peace of mind.

Most people say my children or parents will take care of my dog/cat. Maybe they will. Then again, maybe they won’t/can’t. If you have a large animal like a horse paying the bills for board and feed are not enough to keep it sane in your absence. They need to be turned out and ridden to maintain good mental and physical health. Make sure you don’t only look to the obvious people for help.  Look for others who are willing to help but don’t because you never asked. All you need to do is ask. People will step up and care for your pet, even in your home, especially if you tell them you will reciprocate. That way you all can enjoy the benefits of the human-animal bond during recovery, without the worry of feeding and walking. Do not underestimate the power of a warm pet on your bed in hastening recovery.

Taking time now to appoint three caregivers for your pet, remembering that only one can be a family member, will provide you with comfort and peace of mind. Worrying about it and thinking you will do something tomorrow only creates stress and fear. Join the fear-free owners club, those proactive owners who have their MAAP plan in place. Their MAAP plan is linked together with their friends’, neighbors’, or dog-walking colleagues’ MAAP plans so they all have a level of security in knowing their pets will be cared for as they intend—that is irreplaceable.

About the Contributor: Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton is the principal at Hamilton Law and Mediation, PLLC—the nation’s first solo mediation practice dedicated to helping people resolve conflicts over animals—Debra uses alternative dispute resolution to help address disagreements over the family pet during divorce, neighbors’ arguments over a barking dog, and confrontations between clients and veterinarians and other professionals who work with animals. HLM also looks forward to helping animal rights and welfare advocates see the benefit of having a conversation about the best interests of all parties—especially the animals—to resolve animal-related disputes. She works both nationwide and internationally. She has presented at veterinary schools, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Law Association, the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators, the Living With Animals conference, state bar association Animal Law Committee meetings, and animal interest group.