U program connects pets with caregivers

Branden Peterson

Many pet lovers cannot imagine their lives without their pets. As pet owners grow older, worries about what will happen to their pets if the animals outlive them can emerge.

To ensure their care, five families have enrolled in a University program promising family pets are far from forgotten in the event of an owner’s death or when individuals can no longer manage their pets.

Started last year, PerPETual Care has enrolled 10 animals. To join the program, participants commit a $25,000 minimum charitable bequest in their estate along with a one-time enrollment fee.

A hefty commitment, some might argue, but program officials say they are supplying a service people have requested for years.

“It may be viewed as elitist by some people,” said Kathleen McLaughlin, director of development at the College of Veterinary Medicine and coordinator of the program.

“The reality is the program is not for everyone,” she said. “It’s both pieces; it takes those who are charitably inclined and those with a love for animals.”

McLaughlin said she knows of six universities with similar programs across the country.

Although no participants have parted ways with their pets so far, when the time comes, the program will arrange foster homes for the pets and maintain regular visits to guarantee continued care.

“When an owner dies, the human/animal bond is broken and is very difficult for animals. So we want to make the transition as stress-free as possible,” McLaughlin said.

While PerPETual Care gives owners peace of mind that their pets will remain in loving homes, they also add financial support to the future of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The program also intends to benefit the individual who becomes a pet’s new caregiver.

All costs for food, medical care and supplies for the animal are covered with enrollment. Caregivers need only to take in a pet, an idea McLaughlin hopes will encourage people with a “soft touch” to become caregivers.