Animals

A pet trust will ensure that a pet is cared for when its owner dies. Stock photo

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

Linda Toga, Esq.

THE FACTS: About a year before he died, my father bought a puppy that he adored. His name was Gizmo. My father’s will provided that $15,000 was to be left to the person who agreed to take care of Gizmo after my father’s death. My father told me that he set aside $15,000 because he assumed Gizmo would live a long time and that it would cost that much to cover his food and vet expenses.

Immediately after my father’s funeral, my brother Joe took it upon himself to bring Gizmo to his house. A week later, Gizmo was hit by a car and died. My brother is now insisting that he is entitled to the $15,000 since he “agreed to take care of Gizmo” after my father’s death. I feel he should be reimbursed for whatever expenses he incurred in connection with Gizmo’s care and burial but that the balance of the $15,000 should be divided between all of my father’s children like the rest of his estate.

THE QUESTIONS: Is my brother entitled to the full $15,000? Does it make a difference that Gizmo’s death could have been prevented if my brother had him on a leash?

THE ANSWER: I cannot say how the Surrogate’s Court would handle this situation because a strict reading of the language of the will suggests one outcome while fairness dictates another. An argument can certainly be made that your brother is entitled to the money because he took Gizmo in and cared for him, even though it was for a very short period of time.

On the other hand, if your brother’s decision to let Gizmo out without a leash led to the dog’s death, an argument can be made that he breached his duty to take care of Gizmo and should not get the money. You can also argue that your father intended the money to be used for Gizmo’s care and not as compensation to a caregiver.

Regardless of which position may prevail in court, the issues raised by what has happened underscores the importance of pet owners being very specific about their wishes when it comes to their pets. Simply setting aside money for a pet’s care is not sufficient. Pet owners should include in their wills a pet trust to be administered in accordance with the pet owner’s wishes. If your father’s will had included a well-drafted pet trust, the question of who is entitled to the $15,000 would be addressed.

I suggest that pet owners arrange in advance for someone to take care of their pet in the event they are unable to do so either because of disability or death. Possible caregivers should be asked if they are willing and able to take the pet in and care for the pet on relatively short notice. Once a caregiver is identified, family members and other potential caregivers should be advised of the arrangement to avoid misunderstandings. Informal arrangements usually work well if they are not long term.

For example, a neighbor may agree to watch a dog while its owner is in the hospital or immediately following the owner’s death. The intent is simply to ensure that the pet is cared for until long-term arrangements can be made. Money is usually not addressed in these types of informal arrangements. 

When it comes to the long-term care of a pet, I suggest that my clients include in their wills a pet trust. How much money the owner wishes to earmark for the pet’s care is clearly one of the things that must be addressed but it is only one of many. The trust should also identify the person who will become the pet’s caregiver and set forth the types of care the pet is to receive.

For example, does the owner want the pet groomed on a monthly basis and, if so, by whom? Does the pet need certain types of food or should certain foods be avoided? Does the pet suffer from any ailments that require medication or close monitoring? If so, the pet’s vet should be identified. Providing this sort of information will help ensure that the pet gets the care that it needs from people with whom it is comfortable.

In addition to addressing the care a pet will receive during its life, a pet trust should provide the caregiver with instructions with respect to the handling of the pet’s remains after it dies. This information is useful to the caregiver who will certainly want to honor the pet owner’s wishes.

A pet trust should also set forth the amount of money the executor of the estate is to distribute to the trustee of the pet trust. The job of the trustee is to then distribute the funds in the trust to the caregiver as needed to be used for pet’s benefit. The owner should state what types of expenses are covered by the trust and whether the caregiver is entitled to compensation in exchange for caring for the pet.

The pet trust should also provide instructions for the trustee with respect to the distribution of the trust assets that remain after the pet has died. Had your father included such instructions in his will, you and your brother would not be at odds now.

Pet owners who want to create a pet trust should discuss their ideas and concerns with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning and administration, wills and trusts, guardianship real estate, small business services and litigation from her East Setauket office.

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET SHOTZY!

This gorgeous 4-year-old tabby is Shotzy, currently waiting at Kent Animal Shelter for her furever home. Sweet, playful and lovable, this little treasure would be the purrrfect addition to any family. Hurry down and meet her today! Shotzy comes spayed, microchipped, and up to date on vaccines.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Shotzy and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731.

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET JETER!

This week’s shelter pet is Jeter, an almost 12-year-old Puggle, originally adopted from Kent Animal Shelter 6 years ago.  He was returned because his owner was moving and couldn’t take him along. Now he is looking to spend his golden years with a new family.  

Jeter’s a happy guy, despite it all, and would love to have a second chance.  He is also still very spry and loves people. He’s great with other dogs too!  Won’t you open your heart to this lovable boy?

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Jeter and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731.

Update: Jeter has been adopted!

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A raccoon in Centereach wandered into a backyard while its face was stuck in a peanut butter jar. Photo by Frankie Floridia

A raccoon with his face cramped tight in a peanut butter jar wandered onto a Centereach homeowner’s property Oct. 29, but luckily a local rescue group managed to save its life.

The homeowner contacted Frankie Floridia, the president of Strong Island Animal Rescue League, a Sound Beach-based animal rescue group, concerned for the creature’s life. By the time the rescuer arrived, the animal had disappeared. He then set up thermal cameras and told the Centereach resident to call him again if he heard anything more. At 3 a.m. Oct. 30, the creature appeared again, and this time climbed a tall tree. Floridia took a catchpole up a 20-foot ladder to nab the raccoon before getting down on the ground and physically removing the jar as the raccoon squeaked in fear.

“It was a high adrenaline moment,” Floridia said. “He was so strong, and that’s to say I’m not a light guy, I’m 175 pounds, but I was pulling and pulling, and we both came off, and I hit the ground hard.”

After the animal had calmed down, he gave one last gracious look to his two rescuers before scampering off. The raccoon even came back the next night for cat food from the homeowner.

Floridia said that raccoons often get their faces stuck in jars as they look for food. He added that the raccoon in Centereach most likely had been stuck for close to 24 hours, and it most likely did not have much time to live if it remained in that state without being able to breathe, eat or drink.

“I don’t think he had much longer to go,” he said.

A WAVE OF SUPPORT

For the second year in a row, Splish Splash Water Park in Riverhead held a Doggie Splash Day fundraiser to raise money to help the homeless animals at the Kent Animal Shelter. The event, which was held on Sept. 10, was dedicated to K-9 fun when pet owners brought their dogs to the park for some water fun of their own and raised $2,500 for the Calverton shelter. “This awesome gift from our pet loving friends at Splish Splash will help to provide food, medical care and spay/neuter to the more than 30 animals that were rescued and brought to the shelter after Hurricane Florence,” said Director Pam Green, pictured in photo on the left with Splish Splash sales manager Claire Smith.

Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET PETER AND LOLLY!

This week’s shelter pets are the duo of Peter and Lolly, gorgeous 6-month-old kittens waiting patiently at Kent Animal Shelter to start a new chapter in their lives.

The shelter is offering free kitten adoptions through the month of October. All are spayed/neutered, up to date with vaccines, microchipped and tested negative for feline aids and leukemia before they go home.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Peter and Lolly and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731.

Stock photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I thought it a good time to recycle an article that is appropriate for this time of year. Here are a few tips to make sure this and every Halloween is a safe and happy one.

Candy and chocolate poisoning

Chocolate is dangerous for two reasons. The first is that it contains two chemicals — caffeine and theobromine, which are stimulants in the methylxanthine class. White chocolate contains almost none of these compounds and baking chocolate has the highest concentrations. 

Symptoms begin within 6 to 12 hours after ingestion and include panting, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination. High concentrations lead to irregular heart rhythms, seizures, coma and death. There are specific toxic levels for all pets but, just like people, some dogs and cats can be very sensitive to chocolate and show signs of poisoning from much lesser amounts.  

Chocolate is also very high in sugar and fat. Minimally this could cause some mild diarrhea, but I have personally seen a few cases of serious gastroenteritis, pancreatitis and liver disease from ingestion of large amounts of chocolate and other candy.

Unfortunately, dogs and cats (especially young ones) will be more interested in eating their costume than wearing it. I have both experienced, as well as heard from colleagues, stories of pulling out portions of a witch’s nose, small scarecrow teddy bears, etc. The wrappers from candy can sometimes get wadded up in the stomach or small intestines and either cause intense pain or unavoidable (and expensive) surgery. Corn cobs used as decorations should also be out of reach of curious (and hungry pets). As much as you want the house to look festival, make sure to keep all holiday items out of reach of pets. 

Fears and phobias

Talk to your veterinarian if your pet is afraid of loud noises or large numbers of people coming to the door. Many times a calming supplement or mild tranquilizer sedative is all that is needed to get through Halloween, but always have your pet examined by the veterinarian (especially older pets) before administering these medications. Tranquilizers will cause a drop in blood pressure, which in healthy pets is not a problem but in older or diseased pets can be dangerous (even life-threatening in some cases).  

Malicious injuries

Be aware (especially with cats that go outside) that they are in for the night early. Unfortunately, we do see malicious acts toward animals increase on this particular holiday.  

I hope this information is helpful in providing a safe Halloween environment for our pets.  

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

Mason. Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

MEET MASON!

This week’s shelter pet is Mason, a 6-month-old Chihuahua puppy rescued from South Carolina during Hurricane Florence. This sweet little guy arrived at Kent Animal Shelter with his brother Parker. Parker was adopted yesterday. Now it’s Mason’s turn. Come on down and say hello! He comes neutered, microchipped and up to date on vaccines.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. For more information on Mason and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731. 

By Kyle Barr

The Bates House in Setauket is gearing up to host a night of intrigue and mystery in order to support a local horse sanctuary in need.

The nonprofit Twin Oaks Horse Sanctuary in Manorville will hold a murder mystery event at the Setauket venue on Sunday, Nov. 11 to raise funds for repairs to a barn roof, among others. The farm shelters close to 30 horses, some of which have suffered from abuse, neglect, injury or simply the ravages of time and age. 

“We take them in and they live out their lives,” said Cynthia Steinmann, one of the two main sanctuary volunteers. “You never know their stories before you get them.”

From left, Jennifer Zalak with Maggie the horse and Cynthia Steinmann with Frankie the cat

Horses range in age, but all were saved from worse fates or were taken in when they had no other place to go. Two Friesian brothers Jan and Attilla were brought into the sanctuary after a period where they were nearly starved, kept in the same barn as a dead horse. Another horse named Journey was brought to the sanctuary after a very difficult childbirth in Pennsylvania. Dealer was brought to the sanctuary by caring riding students after becoming too old to be used for lessons.

The sanctuary, which is run by a group of just three women, is looking to get in front of a number of issues before winter season sets in. A recent storm blew the roof off of one of the barn buildings on site and there is a need for a drainage system to prevent flooding as well as to create new boards for horses to walk on if the rains soften the ground too much. 

Several of the horse shelters on site could use renovations, including one that needs to be rebuilt, and the sanctuary is always looking for new wood to reconstruct the pens that some of the larger horses can knock down with only a slight nudge of their huge frames.

“When it’s cold you want them to have a place to get out of the wind,” said Jennifer Zalak, Steinmann’s cousin and volunteer at the sanctuary. “I would just like them to have a nice dry spot to go to if the ground is muddy.”

Journey

The staff take turns alternating between the mornings and evenings, and each in turn is there close to six days a week or more depending on what work is needed. In previous years, when snow storms closed off roads and blanketed their small farm in foot after foot of muddy snow, the volunteers have also slept there to make sure the horses were alright come morning.

Most of the horses are older, around 20 to 30 years old. It means most are past their prime, and they are treated more like members of a retirement community. “With our guys being senior citizens, they really don’t care about moving around too much,” Zalak laughed.

Bates House Manager Lise Hintz said she took a road trip out to the sanctuary and was amazed at how much such a small group of people have been able to accomplish. “When I went out there I could not believe what I saw,” said Hintz “How do you not help a group like that? This sanctuary is in such need of repair and help.”

If Zalak and Steinmann had the opportunity and the funds, their dream would be to open the sanctuary to the public, not necessarily for lessons due to the age of most of the horses, but for therapy reasons, where people come to interact with the horses in quiet and peace. Steinmann said she has seen just how much of a calming effect the horses can have on individuals, especially for people experiencing depression or for those with other mental issues.

“My ultimate dream would be to do a bed and breakfast on the sanctuary with therapy programs for veterans and retired police officers, people with social disabilities, anxiety, depression and others” Steinmann said. “Some people get something spiritual out of it, some people get something relaxing out of it.”

The Nov. 11 murder mystery event, run by the nationally based Murder Mystery Company, will put local residents into a 1920s-themed scenario in which one person has committed a murder most foul. Titled “Crime and Pun-ishment,” the audience has to figure out who the murderer is before he or she gets away. Participants are encouraged to dress for the occasion in either flapper dresses, zoot suits or whatever attire one thinks is appropriate to the time. 

The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket. Doors will open at 5 p.m. and the show will start at 6 p.m. An assortment of Italian food will be served buffet style along with a variety of wines, soft drinks, dessert, coffee and tea. In addition, there will be a silent auction, and a raffle for local artist Dino Rinaldi to personally paint a picture of one winner’s family pet.

Tickets are $35 per person and must be purchased before Oct. 29. Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-sold basis and can be purchased at www.twinoakshorsesanctuary.org, by mail at P.O. Box 284, Lake Grove, NY 11755 or by phone at 631-874-4913. If you are mailing a check please write “Murder Mystery Ticket” in the memo. No tickets will be sold at the door.

For further information call 631-689-7054.

All photos by Kyle Barr

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