How to Establish an Emergency Contact for Your Dog
An emergency contact, also known as a designated caretaker, is a person who will take care of your dog in case you are hospitalized, incapacitated, or unable to return home during an emergency or natural disaster. An emergency contact should be established before a problem arises. Reach out to various friends and family to see who might be willing to take your dog in. Once someone has agreed to be the contact, you should sign an agreement before notifying the proper authorities to ensure that your contact is notified during an emergency. It is also important to provide supplies and instructions to your contact so that they have everything they need to care for your dog.
Finding an Emergency Contact
1Make a list of suitable family and friends. Write a list of your trusted family, friends, and neighbors to see who might be willing to become your dog’s emergency contact. Think carefully about who may be able to assist you. An emergency contact may have to enter your home if you are hospitalized, incapacitated, or unable to return home. Make sure that you trust them to do this.
- The person should be able to provide for all of your dog’s needs. For example, if you have an energetic or high-energy breed, you may not want to choose someone who lives in an apartment. Instead, you may want to ask someone who lives in a house or has a fenced yard.
- You should exclude people who are allergic or afraid of dogs.
- If they have pets, make sure that your dog is compatible and friendly with them.
- If the potential emergency contact has or is expecting children, carefully consider if they will be able to suddenly assume responsibility for your dog as well. Consider whether your dog is good with young children, too.
- An emergency contact should already know your dog, and your dog should be comfortable around them. Do not choose someone if your dog acts nervous, aggressive, or shy around them.
- An emergency contact should live close enough that they can reach your home quickly in case of an emergency.
2Ask them to be your emergency contact. To ask, you should call or meet with your candidate. Tell them that you are trying to prepare in case of an emergency, and ask them if they would be willing to take in your dog. Emphasize that this in case of an emergency only.
- You can say, “I am trying to find an emergency contact for my dog in case something happens to me. I was wondering if you would be willing to do that. I’m not asking you to dog sit; this is really just to make sure that Fido is taken care of in case the worst happens.”
- You might also want to give them an idea of what taking care of your dog is like. You can say, “Fido is a very sweet and quiet dog, and he is house-trained. You would have to walk him twice a day though because he has a ton of energy.”
3Determine how much they are willing to help you. Your emergency contact may take in your dog for a few days if there is an accident, but they may not agree to adopt your dog long-term or in the event of your death. You should make sure you understand the circumstances that somebody is willing to take in your dog. You should ask:
- “How long would you be able to take my dog in for?”
- “If there was a natural disaster, do you think that you would be able to take in my dog? Or would you have to evacuate as well?”
- “If I died, do you think you would be able to adopt my dog permanently?”
4Consider having multiple contacts. Depending on the circumstance, you may want to have a few different options for emergency contacts. If one contact is unavailable, another may be able to help in their place. This will ensure that someone is able to care for your dog in case of an emergency.
- If someone takes in your dog but is suddenly unable to continue care for them, they can contact the other emergency contacts. When you choose your contact, you should let them know who else may be able to help.
5Locate safe havens in case of a natural disaster. If you are evacuated for any reason, you may not be able to take your pet with you, as many disaster shelters will not take pets, and your normal emergency contact may have to evacuate as well. In addition to finding a local emergency contact, you should find a friend or family member outside of your local area who can take in your pet. You should also look for emergency vets, kennels, and boarding facilities where you can take your dog.
- Find out in advance which hotels accept dogs, as you may be able to evacuate to one of these instead.
- Many shelters will fill up during a natural disaster or emergency. If you have advance warning, you should plan for your dog’s evacuation early.
Disclosing Your Agreement
1Sign an agreement. A pet protection agreement is an informal, written document that states that your emergency contact is responsible for your pet if you are unable to care for them. Both you and your contact must sign it. This will help ensure that your contact is able to legally assume responsibility for your dog.
- While you do not need a lawyer for it, you may still want one to look over it for you.
- Getting the document notarized can help in case a dispute arises. It can make the document more legally binding.
- This agreement might state, “If there is a situation in which I am hospitalized, incapacitated or unable to return home, I designate John Doe to arrange for the feeding and care of my dog until I am able to return home again.”
- Tell a trusted contact or two about the agreement. Store it somewhere safe but obvious in the event that you are unable to direct them to it.
- You both should have a copy of this agreement.
2Name a caretaker in your will. You can set provisions in your will to leave your pet to a designated caretaker, and you can even set aside money to that caretaker to provide for your dog after your death. Make sure you have talked about this extensively with your emergency contact before you do so; they should be fully committed to adopting your dog. You should then contact your lawyer about including the caretaker in your will.
- If you cannot find someone willing to adopt your dog after your death, you can name a charitable organization that will rehome your dog. This will ensure that your dog does not go to a kill-shelter after your death.
- Some states allow you to establish a trust that immediately provides money to a trustee for your dog’s care in the event of your death. Talk to a lawyer to see if this is an option for you.
3Inform your vet. Once you have decided who your contact is, you should make sure that your vet knows. Call your vet, and tell them that you have established an emergency contact. Tell them that this person is responsible for your dog if something happens to you. This will help your vet continue caring for your dog in your absence.
- When telling your vet, you should say, “Hi, I just want to notify you that I have chosen an emergency contact for my dog. Her name is Mary Smith, and she lives at 123 Main Street. If anything happens to me, she can make medical decisions for my dog on my behalf. Thanks.”
4Place a sticker on your window. Emergencies can occur when you are not home. To let emergency responders know that there is an animal in the home, you can place a sticker on your window. On this sticker, you should also write both your name and number and the contact information of the pet’s emergency contact.
- You can buy the stickers online or at a pet store.
- The ASPCA provides free stickers through their website.
5Carry a note in your wallet. In case something happens to you, you can inform responders that you have a pet in need of care at your home. The best way to do this is to stick a note in your wallet that states your dog’s name, any medications that they need, and the name of their emergency contact. Responders can reach the contact, and let them know that they should take your pet.
Preparing for a Potential Emergency
1Give the contact a key to your house. If there is an emergency and you cannot reach your home, your contact should be able to enter your house to take care of your pet. It is important that you give your contact your house key. If you have a security system installed, they should have the password to turn it off.
2Put together an emergency kit. To make things easy for your emergency contact, you should put together a kit that has everything your dog might need in an emergency. These items can be stored in a special toolbox, duffle bag, plastic storage crate, or trunk. Tell your contact where the kit is located so that they can grab it in an emergency. You should include:
3Write down instructions. You should make sure that there are written instructions for your contact so that they know exactly how to provide for your dog. You might want to include these written instructions in the emergency kit, or you can post it on your fridge. You might also consider giving your contact the instructions in advance, so that they are prepared if an emergency strikes. Be sure to include:
- How often and how much the dog eats
- How often they need to be walked
- When the dog needs to take medications
- Who their vet is
- Any medical problems
- How often they need to be groomed
- Where your dog’s crate, carrier, bed, toys, and food/water bowl are located in the home.
4Check in with your contact. If the worst does happen, you should stay in touch with your emergency contact. As soon as you are able, call them to make sure that your dog is taken care of. You might even ask your contact to send you pictures or videos of your dog so that you can have peace of mind while you recover from the emergency.
- You may also want to make sure that the contact is updated on your situation. You can say, “I will be in the hospital for another week. Are you ok taking care of Max for that long?”
- If your contact is suddenly unable to take care of the dog, let them know where they can take your dog while you recover. This can be another emergency contact, a vet, or a boarding facility.
- Be sure to thank them for their help.