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Animal Law
The Newsletter of the ISBA's Animal Law Section

November 2010, vol. 2, no. 1

Durable Powers of Attorney for Pet Care

Have you considered a Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care? This can be a useful document during times when you, the pet owner, must “temporarily” give custody of your pet to another person; for example, when you travel for business or pleasure. In the event that your pet should require boarding, veterinarian care or hospitalization while you are away, the Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care assures service providers that the person/caretaker (“agent”) named in your Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care has the legal authority to authorize services provided to your pet and to contract on your behalf for payment of those services. Like all powers of attorney, its validity ceases upon your death.

Q: What is a Power of Attorney?

A: A Power of Attorney (“POA”) or letter of attorney in common law systems, or MANDATE in civil law systems, is a written authorization to act on someone else’s behalf in a legal or business matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal or grantor (of the power) and the one authorized to act is the agent or attorney in fact. The law requires an attorney in fact to be completely honest with and loyal to the principal in their dealings with each other. A POA may be special or limited to one specific act or type of act, or it may be general in nature. Under common law, a POA becomes ineffective if the grantor dies or becomes incapacitated. However, if the grantor specifies that the POA will continue to be effective even if the grantor becomes incapacitated, this type of POA is called a Durable Power of Attorney.

Q: What can I do to insure my pet is cared for if I am not present or I am not able to be reached by telephone or text?

A: One thing you can do is to create a Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care (“POAPC”). This form gives a person you designate the written authority to carry out your wishes in regards to making any and all decisions with reference to your pet’s veterinary care and treatment, including making necessary arrangements for your pet at any animal hospital, emergency room or other pet healthcare facility; transfer to another appropriate veterinary service provider, including the removal from and transfer to another facility or service provider; the power to enter into contracts on your behalf for the benefit of your pet with any service provider or veterinarian; and to assure that provisions have been made for all of your pet’s essential needs.

Q: Why is it necessary to put your wishes in writing, as opposed to just telling your pet caretaker what to do in the event of an emergency?

A: Putting the authority to care for your pet in writing eliminates any confusion that may arise in regards to your agent’s authority with respect to your pet’s care and treatment. For example, in the event of an expensive medical procedure necessitated by your pet being involved in an accident or a medical emergency, this document protects both your agent and the treating veterinarian. The agent is protected by your appointment in writing. The veterinarian is protected in following the direction of your agent, based upon the written authority granted in the POAPC.

Q: What is the benefit of having a Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care?

A: The Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care is based upon this common law principal. You, your agent, and any person who relies on this document will know they are protected by an age old principal of law, which in this litigious society is very comforting.

For those interested in a sample of such a document, please send an e-mail to with a reference such as “Durable Power of Attorney for Pet Care.” ■