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Pets can be one of the most joyful parts of your life. We all love and care for our animal companions and want the best for them but setting up pet guardianship is one thing a lot of pet owners neglect.

Having a pet guardianship is one of the best ways to ensure your pets get the best possible care in case of your death or incapacity. Setting one up doesn’t have to be difficult, but it’s one thing you should consider any time you bring a pet into your home.

What Is a Pet Guardianship?

A pet guardianship is a legal document which helps outline what should happen to your pets if you die or are incapacitated. Depending on the situation, your pet guardianship might be temporary or permanent, and you can have different provisions for both.

Legal guardianship is the care of a person, while ownership is care and responsibility for an animal. On the documents you’re creating, you may need to use the term ownership in place of guardianship. The core of the concept is similar though – setting up a pet ownership or guardianship in case something happens to you, ensures someone is there to see to your pet’s best interests, even if you can’t.

In the case of temporary guardianships, you can designate the person taking your pets will only keep them so long as you are incapacitated and unable to care for them, but that ownership will revert to you when you’re able to take care of them again.

When Do You Need a Pet Guardianship?

Ideally, you should have a pet guardianship any time you have a pet. If you should die or become incapacitated, your pets will either be given to friends or family members who offer to take them. If your family and friends can’t or won’t take your pets and you don’t have a guardianship, your pets will be taken to a local rescue or shelter.

While a shelter isn’t ever an ideal option for your pets, there are some situations where it’s even more important to set up guardianship than usual.

  • Your Pets Are Elderly or Have Health Conditions

Any pets that are getting older or who have health concerns, are less likely to be adopted out of a shelter and more likely to be put down. Setting up guardianship is really important to protect those pets, when possible.

  • You Have Exotic Pets

Cats and dogs have a hard enough time in animal shelters, more exotic animals may be hard to place in a shelter at all and often struggle with adoption. Pets like lizards, snakes, amphibians, birds, and even hamsters, ferrets, and guinea pigs might struggle to find places in shelters and are less likely to be adopted.

  • If you have friends or family who are willing to take these pets, they’ll be much better off with a guardianship. If you don’t have willing friends and family, it might be a good idea to reach out to local communities caring for similar animals and see if anyone would be willing to step in in an emergency.
  • Your Pets Are Rescues or Have Behavioral Challenges

For pets that have been previously rescued, or have temperament or behavior issues, it’s important to make sure you have a guardianship set up with owners who are prepared for the challenges of taking care of your animals.

For further details, we suggest going to the ASPCA website at  They offer a tremendous amount of information on pet planning.