Care for Pets When Owners Are Gone
Advances in veterinary medicine have helped our pets live longer, healthier lives. Sometimes, pets even outlive their owners or need to find a new home when their original families are no longer able to care for them. A unique facility now provides an alternative to shelters, rescues or even relatives when a beloved family pet loses his or her owner.
By: Dr. Jim Humphries, Veterinary News Network
Mac is a typical rambunctious pup that stole the heart of Eleanor Schmidt. His long flowing black and tan hair across his lean Dachshund body reminded her of a dog she had more than 70 years prior. Eleanor knew she was taking a risk that Mac might outlive her, but his big brown eyes and puppy antics quickly dismissed her concerns about age. Thankfully, Eleanor was proactive and made arrangements for the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center to care for Mac in the event she couldn’t.
Pets provide a great deal of affection and companionship for many families, including a large number of senior citizens. With families and relatives spread out across the country, the loyal dog or affectionate cat often becomes a best friend for many older people. But, some individuals avoid keeping any sort of pet over real concerns of what to do if they can no longer care for the animal.
The Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center (“The Center”) was started to help give people peace of mind that someone will be providing for the physical, emotional and medical needs of their pet. In many cases, when an owner can no longer provide care for a dog or cat, the animal is placed with a family member who may not have the means (or the desire) to continue providing the needed attention. In other situations, the pets end up in rescues or shelters, where, despite the best of intentions, adjusting to the new circumstances might be difficult.
As a resident of the Stevenson Center, Mac lives with about 35 other dogs and cats in spacious surroundings, including 5 outdoor yards where he can play. All of the animals are allowed to interact with each other, but also have their own private areas during quiet times. The feline residents are allowed to interact at their discretion, but dogs are kept out of the “cat only” rooms!
The Center began at the suggestion of Dr. E.W. Ellet, a former head of the Small Animal Clinic at Texas A&M University. Funded by generous donations from the Luse Foundation and Ms. Madlin Stevenson, the Center was able to open its door in 1993 and has the capability of housing about 60 dogs, cats and even birds. In a separate area, a barn completed in 2003 houses “Rusty”, a llama originally owned by Ms. Stevenson. Rusty arrived at the center with 4 cats, 7 dogs and a pony in 2000, the year Ms. Stevenson passed away.
None of the residents of the Stevenson Center will ever lack for medical care or personal attention. All of the pets are seen by veterinarians at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital and students of the college actually live at the center to provide 24 hour company to these wonderful animals. From grooming to play time to special diets, each pet receives the perfect amount of attention to insure his or her comfort.
Pet owners who wish to enroll their pets at the center must first pay an enrollment fee of $1,000 to secure a place in the home. Then, depending on the age of the owner, a minimum endowment ranging from $50,000 to more than $200,000 for some large animals must be provided through a trust, will or even paid in full up front.
Some people might question the seemingly high costs, but considering that the pets will have life-long care and the bequests allow the Center to function as a privately funded operation, to many loving pet owners, the peace of mind is priceless. Already, almost 400 animals are waiting for future enrollment at this marvelous facility.
Thinking about what will happen to your pets if you are no longer able to provide for their needs is not an easy thing to do. But, by being proactive, you can insure that your wishes for your pet’s care will be followed. Although the Stevenson Center is unique, there are plans for other similar facilities in the works across the country. Ask your veterinarian about local rescues and groups that might provide assistance for pets who lose their owners.