All posts in Canine

Consider A Trust Fund for your Pet

Pets have become integral and beloved members of millions of families across North America.  We provide them with special diets, unique toys and even grieve heavily when they pass away.  Unfortunately, many dedicated owners fail to consider what might happen to their pets if they are suddenly unable to care for them.

Historically, this was never much of a concern.  Pets have always been considered “property” by state and national governments and so when a person died, their possessions, along with the animals they owned, were disposed of as directed by the person’s will or by the probate court handling the estate.

In today’s society though, pets are thought of as much more than property.  Although they still don’t have a different legal standing, most people will agree that their pets should be handled differently than their car, furniture or other material items.  It’s a sad fact that many senior citizens who might benefit from the companionship of a pet actually avoid bringing an animal home over concerns of care should the pet survive them.

Over the ages, many people have tried to incorporate special provisions into their wills for their pets.  English Common Law actually began to recognize pet trusts as far back as 1842.  But it’s only been in recent years that true strides have been accomplished.

The first problem to overcome was that of the legal hurdle that “property cannot legally own property”.  This means that the animal (property) cannot receive money (more property) in a will for its continued care.  In a similar manner, a pet cannot be named a beneficiary of a trust.  But, in the 1990s, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws saw the need and changed the Uniform Probate Code to actually permit pet trusts.  To date, 45 of the 50 U.S. states allow an owner to create a trust for their animals.

Dog in shelterThe next, and probably bigger issue, is to educate pet owners about their options.  Failing to consider what to do with your pet in the event you are unable to care for him or her could lead to your dog, cat or other pet ending up in a shelter or with a new pet owner.  While these situations could work out just fine, some relatives or individuals may not be willing or able to provide proper care.  In addition, the pet itself may not adjust well to the new environment, leading to behavior issues or even early euthanasia.

Pet trusts actually provide many benefits.  First, since trusts are valid even while the owner is still alive, even if he or she is disabled or incapacitated.  This simple fact allows the pet’s care to continue without the necessity of going through probate.  Leaving money to your pet in a will might provide some resources, but the amount is subject to interpretation by the courts.

In addition, if the owner needs to move to an assisted care facility or nursing home, a pet trust is valuable in helping to keep the pet and owner together.  This alone is a powerful reason to consider setting up a trust for your beloved animal.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a pet trust is administered by a trustee (separate from the pet’s carVeterinarian and client with poodleetaker) who has a legal obligation to follow the guidelines set forth by the owner.  This helps insure that your wishes for your pet are carried out and helps minimize the potential for fraud.  You will want to make sure you have selected a willing and trusted person as the caretaker before the time for one is needed.

As with any legal matter, you should discuss the potential for creating a pet trust with your attorney.  He or she can guide you through the legal ramifications and tax situations and help you draft a document that is enforceable and allows your pet to receive the right type of care in a safe environment.  Your veterinarian may know of attorneys who specialize in these sorts of trusts or even resources that will help you provide for your pet after you are gone.

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FDA Cautions Dog Owners

Questions continue to be raised over the safety of chicken jerky products that are marketed as chicken tenders, strips or treats for dogs in the US.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued cautionary warnings to consumers in September of 2007, 2008, and again in November of 2011.  After seeing the initial number of complaints decrease in 2009 and 2010, the FDA is receiving complaints levels again, prompting a re-release of earlier warnings.

Year                                       Cases Reported

2006                                                       6

2007                                                    156

2008                                                       41

2010                                                       54

2011                                                       70

If you have been feeding these treats to your dog, you should watch closely for the following clinical signs:  decreased appetite; decreased activity; vomiting; diarrhea, sometimes with blood; increased water consumption and/or increased urination.   If you see any of these signs in your pet, stop feeding the treats immediately and contact your veterinarian if the clinical signs persist for more than 24 hours.

The FDA continues to actively investigate the problem and its origin. To date, with extensive chemical and microbial testing, food scientists have been unable to determine the exact cause of illness.  The FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Response Network (VLRN) and several animal health diagnostic laboratories are working towards a direct association of the illness and the consumption of the treats thought to be manufactured in China.

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Care for Pets When Owners Are Gone

Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences Texas A&M University

Mac is a typical rambunctious pup that stole the heart of Eleanor Schmidt.  His long flowing black and tan hair across his lean Dachshund body reminded her of a dog she had more than 70 years prior.  Eleanor knew she was taking a risk that Mac might outlive her, but his big brown eyes and puppy antics quickly dismissed her concerns about age.  Thankfully, Eleanor was proactive and made arrangements for the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center to care for Mac in the event she couldn’t.

Pets provide a great deal of affection and companionship for many families, including a large number of senior citizens.  With families and relatives spread out across the country, the loyal dog or affectionate cat often becomes a best friend for many older people.  But, some individuals avoid keeping any sort of pet over real concerns of what to do if they can no longer care for the animal.

The Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center (“The Center”) was started to help give people peace of mind that someone will be providing for the physical, emotional and medical needs of their pet.  In many cases, when an owner can no longer provide care for a dog or cat, the animal is placed with a family member who may not have the means (or the desire) to continue providing the needed attention.   In other situations, the pets end up in rescues or shelters, where, despite the best of intentions, adjusting to the new circumstances might be difficult.

As a resident of the Stevenson Center, Mac lives with about 35 other dogs and cats in spacious surroundings, including 5 outdoor yards where he can play.  All of the animals are allowed to interact with each other, but also have their own private areas during quiet times.   The feline residents are allowed to interact at their discretion, but dogs are kept out of the “cat only” rooms!

The Center began at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. Ellet, a former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M University.  Funded by generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Ms. Madlin Stevenson, the Center was able to open its door in 1993 and has the capability of housing about 60 dogs, cats and even birds.   In a separate area, a barn completed in 2003 houses “Rusty”, a llama originally owned by Ms. Stevenson.  Rusty arrived at the center with 4 cats, 7 dogs and a pony in 2000, the year Ms. Stevenson passed away.

None of the residents of the Stevenson Center will ever lack for medical care or personal attention.  All of the pets are seen by veterinarians at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and students of the college actually live at the center to provide 24 hour company to these wonderful animals.  From grooming to play time to special diets, each pet receives the perfect amount of attention to insure his or her comfort.

Pet owners who wish to enroll their pets at the center must first pay an enrollment fee of $1,000 to secure a place in the home.  Then, depending on the age of the owner, a minimum endowment ranging from $50,000 to more than $200,000 for some large animals must be provided through a trust, will or even paid in full up front.

Some people might question the seemingly high costs, but considering that the pets will have life-long care and the bequests allow the Center to function as a privately funded operation, to many loving pet owners, the peace of mind is priceless.  Already, almost 400 animals are waiting for future enrollment at this marvelous facility.

Thinking about what will happen to your pets if you are no longer able to provide for their needs is not an easy thing to do.   But, by being proactive, you can insure that your wishes for your pet’s care will be followed.  Although the Stevenson Center is unique, there are plans for other similar facilities in the works across the country.

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Join Us Today! Howl-O-Ween Dog Walk at Phelps Grove Park 4pm.

Please join us at the Howl-o-ween dog walk and costume contest (dogs not required) today, October 22nd at 4 pm, Phelps Grove Park, 950 East Bennett.  Individual entry fees for $15.00 and Family entry fees for $25.00 will benefit the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Springfield, serving the children of our community though projects with Delaware Elementary special needs students, the Kitchen’s Family Nurturing Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, Salvation Army and construction of a universal play center for special needs kids and adults.

We will have pleasant stroll around the park with fun and games for the children.  Hot dogs and cider will be served with Halloween gift bags to each person and prizes for the best participant costumes and prizes for the best pet costumes.

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Protecting Your Pet’s Vision – The Eye Specialists!

As part of your pet’s regular check up, we will spend time peering into the depths of the animal’s eyes.  In the majority of cases, we see eyes that are bright, clear and free of any sort of abnormality.

Occasionally though, pets are presented with injuries, scratches or irritation to their eyes or eyelids.  Some pets have inverted eyelids (entropion) or even extra eyelashes that grow on the inner surface of the eyelid (distichiasis).  Short faced dogs and cats often find themselves with scratched corneas from normal play and roughhousing with other pets.  Some pups will end up with a condition known as “cherry eye” where the gland of the third eyelid protrudes up and away from its normal position.

In many of these cases, we are able to flush the eyes, provide the right medications or  possibly even perform minor surgery to protect the pet’s vision.  But, if the issue is complex, not resolving or when serious eye problems, like glaucoma, cataracts or even retinal detachments occur, we may recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist for help.

These eye specialists undergo intensive training and testing in order to obtain certification from the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO).  After completing veterinary school, candidates for certification often complete an internship before starting a rigorous residency.  All of this extra education must be completed before the doctor attempts to pass the “board exam”.  It is not unusual for a veterinarian to spend an additional 3-4 years in preparation for a testing process that spans four days and includes written, practical and surgical sections.  All told, there are less than 375 veterinary eye specialists in the United States.

These dedicated professionals often have the needed expertise and special equipment that your pet’s regular veterinarian does not have.  Delicate surgical instruments and unique diagnostic tools are just a few of the devices available to veterinary ophthalmologists.  Some of these eye doctors even have special mazes set up at their practice in order to more fully test your pet’s vision capabilities.

Beyond helping dogs and cats, it is not uncommon to see ophthalmologists working with horses, birds and even zoo animals, like sea lions or dolphins!

Each year, the ACVO and its members provide free eye examinations to the thousands of service animals helping disabled individuals around the country.  Partnering with veterinary companies, the ACVO has helped screen more than 6,000 animals for eye problems and donated more than $250,000 in free services to treat issues they have found.   Individuals with service animals are encouraged to visit www.acvoeyeexam.org to find locations and doctors for this annual event.

In addition to this great work, the ACVO has also established the Vision for Animals Foundation.  This not-for-profit organization supports research into many of our pet’s eye disease.  More than $150,000 has been granted to researchers who are focused on eliminating the most serious problems affecting the vision of our pets.

Pet owners can help us and the veterinary ophthalmologist by addressing any eye issue promptly.  It’s important to have the eyes examined if there is any irritation or injury and to avoid using over the counter or previously prescribed medications.  Some of these might contain steroids which will hinder the healing process.  Signs that your pet is uncomfortable include continual squinting, pawing at the eyes or even severe redness.  If you note any of these symptoms, or even your pet just doesn’t seem to see as well as he or she ages, a examination with your veterinarian is warranted.

We will work closely with the veterinary ophthalmologist in order to do what is best for your pet and to protect his or her vision.

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