Operation Protect Your Pets
Who steps in to help pets when their owners are involved in a tragedy?
Like most queer folks I know, I have been reeling from the news of the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. A couple of days after Orlando I was still very afraid, overwhelmed, and raw. I was sitting at my kitchen table and suddenly, had the realization that there must be a whole lot of dogs and cats (and probably other animals) who right at that moment were confused about where their people were, and had no idea, that their "parents" were never going to walk through the door again.
Immediately concerned about the welfare of these animals I started Googling, and was thankful to discover that there were animal lovers on the ground in Orlando that were mobilized to help the pets of victims. Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando seems to have led the work of ensuring that all the pets of victims were cared for, offering foster care for the pets of any of the victims who are hospitalized, and, being prepared to support with finding adoptive homes if needed for pets of those who were murdered in the attack on Pulse.
Articles and news reports about the pets of victims are starting to come out that interviewed Lisa Chiang a friend of victims: "Frank Hernandez died in the shooting, his partner was shot in the arm. The two shared a Chihuahua and a Shih Tzu. The dogs were left overnight, throughout the day and we couldn’t get to them...His first concern was obviously for Frank’s safety and whereabouts, and his second concern was for the dogs, who were locked in the apartment."
Reading articles about these pets, I just sat in my kitchen crying, thinking about my own menagerie of dogs and cats, and the thought of what would happen if (God forbid) my partner and I were injured together. How would anyone know we had pets at home in our apartment? Who would be called? Like many queer people we don't have great or even solid relationships with our biological families. I'm not sure if they would be notified or not, and if they were, I wouldn't want them to be given access to our home or furry-children.
Since that morning I have been thinking a lot about what we could really do to ensure that if something happened to us, whether it be a hate crime or a car accident, or something else and we were both injured or killed, that our furry children would be protected. Obviously these are things that probably everyone who is guardian of a pet should think about, but Orlando was a horrific wake up call that this is something that we as queer pet guardians need to be specifically focused on, and talking about with our friends, partners, and communities.
Operation protect your pets!
1) Get a will: I'm so guilty of procrastinating about this because it kicks up a lot of stuff we don’t want to think about, but we have to. Be sure that your pets are included in the will both in terms of who will get "ownership" of them in the event that something happens to you (and make sure you talk with that person so they know they are named as a guardian in your will), as well as what money or other belongings you are leaving to provide for your pets.
2) Emergency Card: I realized something that I could do really quickly was find a way to make sure the existence of our pets would be made known to emergency personally if we were both injured. I created this business card sized emergency card using the standard business card template on my computer. You can buy fancy ones online, but it seemed like something that would be easier to DIY and customize (I love a simple DIY project). I intend to print some out for my wallet and purses and created a whole sheet of them because ... I have a lot of purses and am not always the best at moving things between them. Making these was an effort to be proactive in the safety of my own pets, please feel free to copy my little design to use for your own family, or create your own and share your designers in the comments!
How do you plan for the disaster scenarios to ensure the safety of your pets? Has your practice been impacted by the massacre in Orlando?