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Though it hurts to imagine it, the day might come when your dog outlives you. All too often, pets in this situation end up in shelters—or worse, being euthanized. So how can you make sure your dog is well cared for in the event of your death? Here’s our handy guide. 

Designate a Caregiver 

It’s important when selecting someone to be your dog’s caregiver that it’s not just someone you trust, but to consider many factors. An emergency caregiver for your dog should also get along well with your dog, have experience taking care of pets, and have enough funds to take care of your dog, to name a few. 

Great Pyrenees getting pet by a woman in a pasture.
Ariel Skelley/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Emergency Preparedness 

Once you’ve selected a caregiver or caregivers, it’s important to make sure your pet reaches their new home safely, should anything happen to you. Sadly, this can be more complicated than you might anticipate: if the police are the first to visit your home after your death, your pet might automatically be sent to the local animal shelter. To avoid that: 

  • Give your designated caregiver(s) keys to your home. 
  • If your chosen permanent caregiver lives far away, make sure to designate some local emergency caregivers—perhaps neighbors or friends who live nearby—to take care of your pet until their new permanent owner can collect them. 
  • Tell your neighbors and loved ones who you’ve selected as your pet’s emergency and permanent caregivers, and make sure they have their contact details. 
  • Make sure your designated caregivers, neighbors, and loved ones know where your pet or pets might hide if someone enters the house and they’re frightened. 
  • Place “In Case of Emergency” signs on your doors or windows, letting people know how many pets you have, and what kind. This will help ensure your pets are rescued in the event of a fire or other disaster. 
  • Post an additional notice on the inside of your doors, listing your emergency and permanent caregivers’ contact details. 
  • Carry a notice in your wallet, too, detailing what type of pets you have, how many, and their designated caregivers’ contact details. 

What Information Should you Share with Your Pet’s Caregiver? 

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It’s important to make sure that your designated caregivers have all the information they need to care for your pet. Discussing the details face to face can ensure that everyone’s on the same page about your pup, but make sure they have all the information in writing, too. Your instructions should contain the following information: 

  • The name and contact details of your veterinarian, plus any specialist health providers your dog sees 
  • Feeding instructions, including food brands, quantities, and the feeding schedule 
  • Exercise schedule 
  • Any extra care instructions, including allergies, grooming, and how to administer medications 
  • Your pet’s medical history 
  • Details of your pet insurance policy, if you have one 
  • A full account of your pet’s likes and dislikes. Are they scared of loud noises? Are they allowed up on furniture? Do they like other dogs, cats, or children? What kind of training and exercise do they prefer? 
  • Financial information. See our guide to designating a caregiver for more information on financially providing for your dog’s care after your death. Whichever route you decide to take, make sure that the designated caregiver has all the information they need in order to access the funds you’ve set aside. 
  • Your preferences for your dog’s future medical treatment and any end-of-life care 

Transferring your Dog’s AKC Registration 

Your dog’s registration can be assigned to their new caregiver after your death. If your estate has an executor or administrator, that person should send a copy of the “Letters Testamentary,” confirming their status, to AKC. This will allow them to sign on your behalf for the dog’s registration to be transferred. 

If your estate does not have an executor, your next of kin will automatically become the executor. The next of kin should sign the “Statement of Legal Rights” form and have it notarized. This will allow them to sign AKC documents on your behalf. 

Friendship between human and dog beagle - shaking hand and paw
©Nastya -

When to Start Preparing for your Dog’s Future Without You

Dogs who do end up in shelters after their owner’s death can suffer severely. Many struggle with the trauma of losing their owner and moving from a loving home to a crowded shelter, and display signs of distress that make it hard for them to find forever homes. But this is avoidable. You can make sure your dog has a loving home after your death by following the steps in this guide—and the best time to start planning is right now. 


The Loyal Legacy™ Plan allows you to set up a personalized pet trust for your dog and provides you with the money you’ll need to fund it with Group Term Life Insurance underwritten by New York Life Insurance Company. #5846077.1

This article is intended solely as general guidance, and does not constitute health or other professional advice. Individual situations and applicable laws vary by jurisdiction, and you are encouraged to obtain appropriate advice from qualified professionals in the applicable jurisdictions. We make no representations or warranties concerning any course of action taken by any person following or otherwise using the information offered or provided in this article, including any such information associated with and provided in connection with third-party products, and we will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages that may result, including but not limited to economic loss, injury, illness or death.
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