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Pet Professions You Didn’t Know Existed: Pet Law

In the third article in our summer series of extraordinary pet professions, we’re going to explore “pet law”– and why it’s important to remember your animals when going over your legal docs. 

*DISCLAIMER*: This article is NOT meant to serve as legal advice and should be used for informational purposes only. Please consult an attorney before making any legal decisions.

by Caroline Wilson, owner/head editor & writer of /redpen

Any pet parent’s worst nightmare is the neglect of their family – whether they’re furry, feathered, scale-y or spiky. However, it is often our animals that are forgotten in legal affairs–namely, in the writing of a will.

Though it’s difficult to think about, we have to face the fact that we one day won’t be around to feed, walk and play with our animals. The heaviness of this topic often leads to neglect of the conversation and as a result, confusion when it comes to a pet’s well-being. “(Some pet owners) just assume some well-meaning friend or family member will take over care without even the briefest conversations about the topic.” says Christopher Parrucci, Esq., an attorney for Pet and People in NYC. One of his focuses is pet law, a field that used to be considered a joke in the legal world. Within the past years, this field has grown to be incredibly popular.

Pet law is far more than estate planning and pet trusts (a legal document that places your pet in someone else’s care–we’ll talk about that soon). It also involves governmental protections regarding various animal rights. Topics within the animal rights law realm include puppy mills, roadside zoos and even farms. While there are some legal protections of animals (the most notable of which is the Animal Welfare Act, first enacted in the mid-Sixties), there are still leaps and bounds to be made in the safeguarding of animal rights. Thankfully, household pets have now secured a place in the legal world.

Back to owner-pet law: pet trusts are becoming more and more common than putting animals in wills–in fact, every state in America has a law addressing them. What’s the hype around pet trusts, and what makes them better than the traditional will?

Traditionally, animals have been seen as property in the eyes of the law. This makes the money left in a will for a pet or its caretaker far less secured. Courts cannot control how the person left to care for the animal will spend the money. Our furry family can get lost in the shuffle and be subjected to inadequate care. By creating a pet trust, this becomes preventable. This legally binding document provides care and maintenance for animals, as well as funds to do it, in the case of the owner’s passing. Caretaker(s) and Trustee(s) (those who care for pets and distribute the funds for doing so, respectively) are held far more accountable for the animals and money left in their hands.

Though these services are increasingly in demand, they are not popular enough. Christopher says that the biggest challenge–and most important aspect–of his work is educating the public. “Most of my clients are coming to me specifically because they know I love animals and will be welcoming and encouraging of their choices to include their companion animals in their estates. But there are still so many people out there that can learn that this is an option.” Though it’s a tough subject to broach, it’s one that can be made accessible to everyone through awareness and education. 

For those of you interested in creating a pet trust, there are a few things to consider. Arguably the most important consideration is who the future caretakers and trustees of your animal(s) will be. Christopher, along with other industry experts, says that you should start by talking to your family and loved ones, particularly those who already know your pets. Similarly to traditional estate planning, designating substitute caretakers and successor trustees is essential. If you don’t have anyone to name a caretaker, many animal care and shelter organizations will place pets in homes through foster-care programs. These programs typically require contributions and advanced enrollment. Another consideration is the amount of money you’d leave for the care of your furry friend. This truly depends on your pet. A good start to this step is to keep track of how much money you spend on pet care in the course of a year, in order to help you determine the cost of care for your pet over its lifetime.

Like anything regarding your pet’s health and wellbeing, consult a professional if you’re unsure–don’t make serious legal decisions based off of information you found online.Many attorneys will even do initial consulting for free so you can get a feel for their service. Finding the right lawyer or attorney means finding someone who cares deeply about the well-being of their clients, whether furry, hairy, scale-y or otherwise!

In our next (and final) article of this series, we’ll be discussing pet trainers and the importance they have on your furry family’s manners.

About our professional:

Christopher Parrucci, Esq., is an ​attorney in New York City. He specializes in estate planning for everyone–including pets. Starting his career as a high school social studies teacher, he originally began studying law to better himself as an educator. In doing so, he discovered that animal rights were underprotected by the law. This, combined with his desire to make estate planning services accessible to people other than the wealthy, made him create his practice. He lives in the city with his wife and 14-year old rescue cat, AnaCapri.

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Stay Vigilant – Protect your Pet from Summer Pests!

cat scratching ear

by Cyndie Anderson, owner of Pooch Pros Pet Care Services

Summer means hotter temps, longer days and of course BUGS! Yes, lots of ’em. Even as summer draws to a close, it’s crucial that you protect your pets from pesky seasonal pests (try saying that five times fast!). There are several different kinds to be concerned with but luckily – various ways to protect your dog or cat from the risks! (more…)

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July 4th: A Dog’s Worst Nightmare!

Dog with flag bandana

by Team Petmasters

Every year, the 4th of July promises hotdogs and hamburgers, sparklers and fireworks and most importantly – family and friends gathered together to celebrate America’s independence. These festivities usually include all members of the family, even the furry ones, in large groups after dark. While we cherish this time under a sky illuminated by fireworks, it is important to consider how pets feel amidst the unexpected bursts of noise and burning light.  (more…)

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Can My Pet Eat That?

by Cyndie Anderson, Owner and Chief Pet Lover at Pooch Pros Pet Care Services LLC

We love our pets!  And loving them sometimes means giving in to the look for our human food. You know the look!  However, some foods are particularly dangerous for our pets and can cause stomach upset, seizures or even death.  Be aware of what is toxic and take action to ensure your pets are not digesting dangerous human delights!

Grapes and Raisins: These can cause kidney damage, kidney failure and even death. While not every pet will react the same way, it is best to avoid them.

Artificial Sweeteners: Xylitol, a popular sweetener found in gum, candy and even some diet versions of peanut butter, is deadly. It can causing insulin spikes and drops in blood sugar resulting in seizures, shock and eventual death.  Some low fat peanut butters even contain xylitol so be sure to read labels well. Be extra cautious leaving items that contain it in reach of your pet.

Garlic: While controversial because of the possible health benefits for dogs, Garlic has been known to have severe consequences for pets.  It can cause the liver to recognize red blood cells as damaged, resulting in anemia, lethargy, difficulty breathing and even death.

Avocados: Avocados are safe for dogs but toxic to birds, cows, sheep, horses and goats. Birds show signs of difficulty breathing and swelling while cattle, sheep, horses and goats can have digestive problems and breast infections from ingestion.

Chocolate: The chemical theobromine is the culprit in chocolate that causes many problems for pets. The darker and purer the chocolate, like baker’s chocolate for example, the higher the level of theobromine. It causes hyperactivity, cardiac arrhythmia, seizures and sometimes death.

Caffeinated Beverages: Coffee, tea and soda containing caffeine are toxic for your pet. Large doses cause heart arrhythmias, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and even coma.

Bacon and Ham: High in fat, bacon and ham can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can be very serious and lead to hospitalization.

Cooked Bones: Surprisingly, cooked bones are NOT good for your pet. They splinter easily and can puncture the gastrointestinal tract causing peritonitis.  The only solution is surgery.  If you must feed bones to your pet, feed raw bones. They are available at many local grocery stores from the meat department.

Pitted Fruits: The pits in fruits such as peaches, plums and nectarines contain the poison cyanide. They are also the perfect size for getting lodged in the gastro intestinal tract.

Rhubarb: The leaves of the rhubarb plant can cause a drop in blood calcium levels. This results in salivation, tremors, lethargy, loss of appetite and possibly kidney failure.

Macadamia Nuts: An unknown toxin in macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, weakness, tremors, fever and lethargy.

Onions: Onions contain a chemical called thiosulphate. Thiosulphate causes red blood cells to burst, resulting in hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic Anemia shows up after a few days with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, breathlessness, lethargy and sometimes even death.

Sugar: Sugary, high fat sweets are never good for your pet. They can cause pancreatitis and particularly in dogs, lead to diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy and abdominal pain.

Raw Fish: Raw fish has been known to cause a Vitamin B deficiency in pets. This deficiency could result in seizures.  Fish that are most toxic include salmon and trout.  Some fish, like salmon, can also carry parasites that can be deadly if not treated properly.

Raw Meat: While controversial, raw meat can be dangerous if infected with bacteria such as e. coli, or salmonella.  If you feed raw meat to your pets, get the highest quality possible to avoid infection.

Dairy Products: After puppyhood, most dogs can no longer digest dairy, being lactose intolerant. Too much milk can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Cheese has less lactose than milk so small bites are tolerable to most pets.

While it’s tempting to share our treats with our pets, think twice about what you are putting in their mouth.  What is delicious to us could be deadly for them.

About the Author:

Originally from the Shenandoah Valley, I have been in Northern Virginia for 21 years. I left the corporate world in 2000 to stay at home with my two stepdaughters. After becoming an empty nester I went back to work in retail part time. Once I had done that for about a year I felt like I wanted to do something different. There are two things I am really passionate about: music and dogs. I decided to take my love for dogs and start Pooch Pros Pet Care Services. Having previously worked for a pet sitting service, I knew this would be a perfect fit for me. I now employ 5 independent contractors and we service 45 customers. I am mama to two fur babies: Target, a 14-year-old mixed breed and Jeeves, a 9-year-old Maltese.

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Pooch Pros Pet Care Services LLC

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