What would happen to your pets if you were in a serious car accident and taken to a hospital unconscious? Would anyone know you had pets at home? How would they be contacted? Does anyone have a key to your house to care for them? Do they know how to care for them (their feeding schedules, medications, etc.)? Have you ever thought about that and made plans? Lots of questions but if you don’t have good answers now is the time to correct that situation.
What brought this up is a situation we are dealing with right now. A single elderly woman (we’ll call her Sue) who lives alone had a medical crisis. When emergency personnel responded they found one cat in the garage and called us to get it. Then the house was locked up and the woman taken to the hospital. When Sue regained consciousness a few days later she asked about her two cats. She said one was in the house and one in the garage. Who knew that there was another cat? She didn’t have a house key (probably locked inside the house) and no one else had one to her home.
Sue’s condition was serious, and she was not going to be going back home. If she got stable enough she would be transferred to a long-term nursing care facility. Getting someone declared as conservator takes quite a while and at this point the cat had been locked alone in the house for almost a week. Without an immediate life-threatening situation, we have to respect Sue’s fourth amendment right about search and seizure. So we needed to try to get legal clearance to gain entry to the home.
The clock was ticking as we talked to Sue’s brother to see if he could give us entry (he was estranged from his sister and had no authority or key to her home). Apparently, Sue had become a grouchy old woman and had no friends or contact with her neighbors. We spoke to her medical case worker about her condition to see if she was lucid enough to give us consent to enter her home or if we would need to try to get a court order allowing us to enter the premises.
You can see how all this red tape just gets in the way of helping the animals that need help. But the real issue is there was no plan in place for this situation. What can you do for your pets? First is a card in your wallet that states you have pets at home and whom to contact (maybe list a couple of people). The same thing in your home – have a LifeAlert or another one of the many forms available (you can even create your own) filled out and on your fridge in case of an in-home emergency. This states contacts and other important information that medical and police personnel need in emergencies.
Make sure someone you have regular contact with has a key to your home. Everyone who lives alone should have a partner they check on (just a quick phone call or text daily) that would notify the police if they didn’t hear from you within a reasonable period of time. Have pet care information (name and description of each animal, any medications they need, veterinarian, and other pertinent information) accessible and updated – nothing worse than searching a home over and over again and then finding out that particular pet had died a year ago.
We were able to finally catch Sue in a lucid moment and she gave us permission to get her cat out of the house, so this story had a happy ending. Tiger is with us, hungry and thirsty but now safe and being cared for.
• “Get Them Back Home” campaign: Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. Free pet ID tags and backup microchips are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wednesday 1-6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1-5:30 p.m.; and Sunday 1-4:30 p.m.
• Fix-it clinics: Free spay and neuters for cats and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 pounds) are available for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.