Pet retirement homes and pet sanctuaries provide for the physical, emotional, and medical needs of companion animals whose owners are no longer able to provide that care themselves. Clients include pet owners who want to assure their pet's future prior to entering a retirement home, being hospitalized for an extended period, or predeceasing a pet. Unlike pet shelters that seek to place animals in the home of another loving family, pet retirement homes and sanctuaries permanently serve as that home.
If you are concerned that you may be unable to continue to care for your pet and haven't designated another trusted person to provide that care, a pet retirement home or pet sanctuary may be a great option. Before you choose this strategy, make sure you've done these 5 things first.
#1 Visit the pet retirement home
Your pet is going to be spending the rest of its life here. Make sure that you inspect the facilities and speak with an administrator to learn more about their program.
As you tour the facility, pay attention to the layout. Is the facility large enough to comfortably accommodate all the animals living there? What other kinds of animals are on site? Do you think that your pet will get along with them? Is there enough staff to safely look after each pet?
#2 Learn about the type of care your pet will receive
As a proud pet parent passionately committed to the wellbeing of your pet, this one will come naturally to you.
Will your pet have enough room to exercise daily? Can your pet continue to enjoy the same type of food, or will it need to switch to a different plan? Is there a qualified person or team providing medical check-ups and treatment? When was the last time animal control or another third party inspected the facility and program?
#3 Find out if the pet retirement home has an enrollment fee
You no doubt have experienced firsthand that pets can be expensive. Most centers, even those with generous endowments, require an enrollment fee to help offset the cost of providing care for your pet.
If you are gifting your pet to the pet retirement as part of your estate plan, make sure that you have at a minimum allocated sufficient funds to cover the enrollment fee.
#4 Validate the strength of the organization's finances
Even if you're paying an enrollment fee as part of securing your pet's place at the retirement home, don't assume that the enrollment fee alone guarantees the continued successful operation of the center. You need to make sure that the organization operating the pet retirement home is on stable financial footing.
If the organization operating the pet retirement home is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization, you can find its most recent financial reports on the IRS Tax Exempt Organization search tool. Review the financial statements yourself or with the help of a trusted friend to confirm that the organization's assets and/or recurring revenues will provide sufficient funds to operate the retirement home for at least the expected life of your pet.
If the organization is not a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization, ask if it will provide its tax returns and other financial records.
#5 Learn if and how you can reserve a space for your pet
If you are exploring placing your pet in a pet retirement home at a future date (as opposed to securing immediate placement), find out if and how you can reserve a space for your pet.
Not all centers accommodate advance reservations, but others such as the Texas A&M Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center take reservations to secure enrollment if you make at least a minimum bequest (i.e., a gift under an estate plan to paid at a later date when you pass away) or if you pay an upfront endowment fee.