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Friday, March 20, 2015

This woman has a plan to take care of your dog - or your donkey - after you die

Many pet owners find it stressful to think about what will happen to their animals after the owners have passed away. I've written many wills over the years that address where the animal(s) should go, how much money is allocated for their care, and sometimes special instructions. Most of the time, those special instructions include a wish that the pet not be euthanized unless it is medically necessary to do so.

Not all pet owners make arrangements, though. According to an article in, as many as 500,000 animals a  year go into shelters after the death of their owners, and many of these animals are euthanized. (It's an American article, so the numbers are no doubt less in Canada).

Now there is a woman in Texas named Vicki Cooper who has a plan I've never heard of before. She owns a farm, on which she runs a sanctuary for pets whose owners have passed away. She accepts dogs, donkeys, llamas, cows, horses, pigs, goats and mules, all of whom can live out the rest of their natural lives on the farm.

The care isn't free, of course. There is a registration fee of $1,000 for the first pet, and $500 per each additional pet. Also, any animals who go to this farm must be accompanied by a fee set by the business owner based on the expected lifespan of the animal. The fee can be anywhere from $118,000 for a 10-year-old dog to $400,000 for a donkey.

Ms. Cooper has come up with an idea for funding the pet's care: she suggests that pet owners take out a life insurance policy that  names her farm as the beneficiary. I can see how that plan might appeal to people, in that it allows them to pay only a small monthly premium to generate enough funds to pay for the pet's lifetime of care. However, it occurs to me that an owner could buy a policy for, say, $250,000 because their dog is only 5 years old. But then when the owner dies, perhaps the dog is 18 years old. The farm then gets enough money to look after a dog for 15 years but only has to look after it for two or three years. It would make more sense to me to make the policy payable to the pet owner's estate, then calculate the fee payable at that time.

If you'd like to know more about this idea, which I think will catch on, click here to read the Huffington Post article.

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