Although you can’t leave money directly to a companion animal, there are lots of things you can do to make sure your pets are well provided for when you can no longer take care of them. You have two options (see details referring to each below):
1.) Leave your companion to someone in your will or living trust (family member or friend)
2.) Sign up with a non-profit rescue or sanctuary to provide or find a home for your animal(s)
If you don’t name a new owner in your will or trust, one of three generally undesirable consequences could result:
- Your pet(s) will go to the residuary beneficiary of your will (the beneficiary who inherits everything that’s not taken care of by the rest of the will); or
- If you don’t have a will, your pet(s) will go to your next of kin, as determined by state law; or
- Your pet(s) may be sent to the local animal services in your area where you run the risk of him/her being euthanized.
Leaving your companion to someone in your will or living trust: Whether or not you have relatives, the most important thing is to find someone who will take good care of your companion parrot(s). First, be sure the person wants to take on the job. Then, specify in your will that you wish to leave your companion to that person. It would also be a nice gesture, although not legally required, to leave the caretaker funds in your will to compensate him/her for the task. (You can’t leave money directly to your companion animal(s), much as we may feel that pets are family, the law views them as property.) See “Pet Trusts”.
Whether you use a will, living trust, or pet trust to provide for your pet, choosing a new owner is the most important thing you can do to make sure your pet is well taken care of after your death. Remember, legally your pet is an item of property, and when you pass, he or she will need a new owner. Make your decision legally binding by including it in your will. Be sure that the gift of your pet is not a surprise. Talk to the people you want to take your pet(s), and make sure they are really willing and able. They may adore your companion animal(s) but if their children have allergies or they live in a high-rise building where noise travels easily, they simply may not be in the position to accommodate your family companion(s). They may also need education on the care, handling, diet, and vetting of your companion(s).
Because circumstances change—your first choice for someone to take your pet(s) could take a job that requires lots of travel or move into a small apartment—it’s always a good idea to line up a second choice. You should always name an alternate beneficiary in your will or trust. For example: “If my parrot, Coco, is alive at my death, I leave her and $10,000 to be used for her care to Erin Doe. If Erin is unable to care for Coco, I leave her and the $10,000 to be used for her care to Susan Smith.” Make sure that the people you name in your will or trust have copies of all of the necessary paperwork. In addition, pre-select at least 3 rescues or sanctuaries for your bird(s) in the case that the family you choose to take your bird(s) is unable to or their circumstances change on down the line and they can no longer care for your parrot(s) and confirm with those rescues and/or sanctuaries what is required to have a spot for your bird(s). This way, if the family you chose can no longer care for your birds, they have your pre-selected choices to go to, so they can rest assured you approved at one point.
Putting conditions on the gift is also something you may want to consider. It is possible, but complicated and usually impractical, to make the gift of the pet(s) conditional on certain acts of the new owner. For example, you could put a clause like this in your will:
“If my parrot, Coco, is alive at my death, I leave her and $10,000 to Erin Doe, on the condition that Erin care for Coco until her death. Should Erin stop providing necessary care for Coco, Coco and the $10,000 shall go to Florida Parrot Rescue, INC of Tampa, Florida.”
The executor of your estate (the person you name in the will to carry out your wishes) has the responsibility to enforce these conditions as long as the estate is still before the probate court. In most states, it takes about six months to a year to get probate wrapped up and all the property distributed. After that, it’s up to the alternate beneficiary, in this example, Florida Parrot Rescue, INC. Don’t rely on legal niceties to protect your pet(s). Arrange for them to be taken care of by people who know that a parrot is more than another piece of property.
Sign up with a non-profit rescue or sanctuary to provide or find a home for your animal: It’s often tough to find someone both willing and able to take care of your parrot(s). Responding to that need, a few programs have sprung up across the country to ensure that pets will have a loving home when their owners can no longer care for them.
After the San Francisco SPCA fought, successfully, to save a dog that was to be put to death after the death of its owner, the SPCA began a special service, the Sido Service, to find loving homes for the pets of deceased San Francisco SPCA members. The new owners are also entitled to free lifetime veterinary care for the pets at the SPCA’s hospital. (For more information, contact the San Francisco SPCA.)
Some other organizations take a different track. They themselves will care for your pet for its lifetime, provided you make a large (commonly, around $10,000 to $25,000) gift. Here are a few of these programs:
- Washington Animal Rescue League, Guardian Angels program, 71 Oglethorpe Street, NW Washington, DC 20011, 202-726-2556.
- Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Perpetual Pet Care Program, Manhattan, KS 66506, 785-532-4378.
- Texas A&M University Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, College Station, TX 77843, 979-845-1188.
Parrots of course can be a bit different than dogs and cats, many people to do not have the ability or education to care for your parrot(s) so we suggest that you first decide if you want your companion(s) to go to a legitimate rescue where they will vetted properly and then adopted out into a new home or if you want your companion parrot(s) to go to a sanctuary where he/she will live in an outside flight with other parrots for the rest of her/his life. There are different things to consider when you make this decision, first being that sanctuaries fill quickly as animals are not adopted out and since the bird(s) will stay there for the rest of his/her life, a large accommodation of funds should be provided to cover yearly vetting, toys, food, etc for the next 20-80 years your parrot(s) may have left to live. On the other hand, a rescue may ask for little to no money to take your companion parrot(s) although we suggest considering leaving a trust that can be passed to the new adoptable owner, with some funds slated for vetting upon arrival into rescue and to provide food and toys while your companion is in residence. This decision is an individual decision and we suggest that you start to research where you would like your companion animal(s) to go as soon as possible using the points shown at the bottom of this page. Some birds may be better in a rescue as they are used to living in a home with people and love human attention, some may be more aloof and you may decide they will be happier in a sanctuary – but either way – please make sure your organization of choice is thoroughly checked by you so you are comfortable with your decision.
If you have decided you would like Florida Parrot Rescue to be the place where your parrot(s) “land” please fill out the Parrots for Life request form and our relinquishment coordinator will speak with you about the proper documentations we will need. You can always e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Florida Parrot Rescue, INC is a 501c3, non-profit, all volunteer run, tax exempt corporation:
A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the division of consumer services by calling toll-free (800-435-7352) within the State. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval, or recommendation by the State.
See our page on THE GIVING PARTNER for detailed information on Florida Parrot Rescue, including financial and program information. FPR is a transparent organization where all information is provided upon request.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN DECIDING WHERE YOU WOULD LIKE YOUR PARROT(S) TO GO:
1 – Make sure they are a legitimate registered non-profit with the state of Florida (http://www.sunbiz.org/)
2 – Make sure they are a legitimate 501c3 registered with the IRS (http://www.irs.gov/) and that the name they are registered under with the IRS is actually the name of the rescue/sanctuary and that they are not using someone else’s 501c3
3 – Check www.guidestar.org or www.thegivingpartner.guidestar.org to see if the sanctuary/rescue is transparent with their funds and what they do with them – the major expenditure of a sanctuary or rescue should be vet bills (unless they are a large sanctuary with a full time staff rather than volunteers – if so, that will be up there with the amount of funds spent on vetting). You can register with guidestar for free (it’s very easy) in order to see 990’s for that sanctuary or rescue. If a sanctuary receives “free” vetting (which is rare) verify that with their veterinarian and verify that every bird is seen on a regular basis, not just when they are sick.
4- Make sure there are no current or past complaints with the department of Agriculture for the state or with the local animal services in the county of which the rescue or sanctuary is registered, also make sure they have the proper licenses with FWC. Also check for complaints on-line.
5 – Ask a lot of questions – sanctuaries and rescues with nothing to hide will be happy to answer those questions, including who their vet or vets are, how often they vet the birds (birds should be vetted yearly and in between when needed if showing illness or injury) and call those vets offices to confirm. Also ask how long have they been around and how many birds have they taken in that time -if they have not been around for long – does it seem like a lot?
6 – If a sanctuary, go to the location and make sure the flights are predator proof (dug into the ground at least 1 foot with non-toxic wire on each side to keep out diggers and/or on a cement platform) and that they are really feeding what they say they are (which should be a mainly pelleted diet, 50-60%, with about 30-40% fresh veggies, and fruits less than 10% with nuts as treats, seeds are not a good diet for birds and some should not even have them at all, so make sure that is not the main part of their diet) also look for cleanliness, and ask what they do when it is cold out to keep the flights warm and vice versa when it is very hot. Also make sure that the sanctuary has reports on the soil and water on property showing the location is safe for animals to be on. Also ask how they introduce new birds to a flight, birds should be in quarantine after vetting for about 30-45 days and then should be slowly introduced into a flight with other birds, not just shoved in hoping that all the birds get along and no one gets hurt. Also ask what the sanctuary or rescue does in the event of an evacuation due to hurricane or other bad weather.
7 – Ask what will happen to the birds in the rescue or sanctuary once the person who runs it is no longer able. Your best rescues and sanctuaries will have a large network of officers and volunteers, plans in place for the future when the current president/director can no longer volunteer for the sanctuary, and will be fiscally sound. Reputable rescues and sanctuaries will have their financials registered with the IRS where you can request them and some will even give them directly to you if they have an accountant on staff who can provide that information quickly.
8 – Make sure the property the birds are located on is actually owned by the sanctuary, not rented, not leased, etc.. where the sanctuary and hence the birds can be thrown off the property at any time, but actually outright owned by or outright mortgaged by the sanctuary itself (and not an individual, but the actual sanctuary).
9 – Real avian rescues and sanctuaries DO NOT breed OR sell baby birds bred specifically for selling to help “raise funds to help run the rescue/sanctuary”. There are so many birds in need, breeding should never be part of the paradigm of a true rescue or sanctuary.