Have You Named a Guardian for Your Furbaby?

Have you named a guardian for your furbabies, aka non-human family members? Failing to name a guardian for your furbaby is neglect in the same way it would be for human babies. I’m a pet owner. I’ve had dogs, fish, hamsters, crabs, frogs, turtles, my oldest son brought home a cat temporarily once, and we are guinea pig sitting at the moment. Our pets have shown us tremendous love, and we have loved them. If you feel the same way, you might wonder about what would happen to your pets if you became incapacitated, disabled, or died.

Some of you will say to yourself, “my friend or family member will take care of my pet.” It is a mistake to merely hope and wish that a friend and family member will take care of your pet. A good example of hopeful intentions gone wrong is Sarah v. Primarily Primates, Inc., a court case. Primarily Primates, Inc. was an animal sanctuary. Ohio State University agreed to give Primarily Primates, Inc. nine chimpanzees and three new world monkeys, and Primarily Primates, Inc. agreed “to accept ownership of the Chimps and Monkeys and to provide for their lifetime care.” Sarah v. Primarily Primates, Inc., 255 S.W.3d 132 (Tex. App., 2008). Sarah, Harper, Emma, Keeli, Ivy, Sheba, Darrell, Rain, and Ulysses” (the surviving primates), along with Henry Melvyn Richardson, Stephany Harris, and Klaree Boose (the interested persons) sued Primarily Primates, Inc. because they alleged mismanaged donated funds and animal neglect (see https://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2007-05-04/471787/ accessed 08-09-2019). The plaintiffs requested a remedy that the court should create or in the alternative recognize that the contract was a pet trust instead of a contract. Sarah v. Primarily Primates, Inc., 255 S.W.3d 132 (Tex. App., 2008). The district court dismissed the lawsuit because animals cannot file a lawsuit and the interested persons did not have a justiciable interest (no standing) to sue. The only party who could have sued for breach of contract would have been Ohio State University. What this court case teaches us is that the best way to protect the best interest of the animals is to use a pet trust instead of any other type of agreement or contract.

Estate planning attorneys can advise you on legally enforceable methods for protecting your pets if tragedy strikes you. Section 112.037 of the Texas Trust Code permits creation of a trust for money and assets to be used to take care of a pet. We suggest you hire an attorney who has experience designing this type of trust because it will not be enforceable if it is created incorrectly.

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