The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday January 28th

Paws4ever gives pet owners peace of mind for future

Laura Griest, the executive director of Paws4Ever, pets one of the non-profit's cats, Fajita, as she leads a tour of the compound.
Buy Photos Laura Griest, the executive director of Paws4Ever, pets one of the non-profit's cats, Fajita, as she leads a tour of the compound.

But a new addition to the property makes it one of only a handful of shelters across the country offering long-term care for pets whose owners can no longer look after them due to sickness, aging or death.

Paws4ever celebrated the official launch of its Legacy Care program Saturday. The program allows pets to receive the care they need if something happens to their owners — without being turned over to a county shelter or a reluctant friend or family member. Twelve pets have already been signed up.

Paws4ever Executive Director Laura Griest said the staff at the shelter developed the program after they realized there was a need in the community that Paws4ever could fill.

“Imagine if you have your dogs or cats, and there’s no one in your family or network of friends who’s able to take your pet if something happens to you,” Griest said.

“There are people who want to plan ahead, who really should plan ahead, in the same way a person actually plans for the care of their kids.”

Once their owners can no longer care for them, pets enrolled in the program will temporarily live in the shelter’s Legacy Care Residence, a fully furnished apartment, until they are placed in the home of a Legacy Care Provider, who will care for them until they are adopted.

If approved through an application process, the owner must pay a $1,000 upfront membership fee for each pet to join and a $10,000 endowment for the animal’s long-term care. The endowment can be paid upfront through a life insurance policy or in a provision in the owner’s will.

Although the cost is expensive, Griest said it is much less than the endowments for other shelters with similar programs in the country, which range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Griest noted that the current endowment cost may not be sustainable in the future.

Melissa Bennett, president of the board of directors for Paws4ever, said the Legacy Care program is a unique and valuable service.

“I think what’s so special about the Legacy program is just the fact that it’s the only program of its kind in the area, and I think it’s what people are looking for — so that if anything happens to them, they know their pet is cared for,” Bennett said.

Griest said the Legacy Care program gives seniors who otherwise may not have been able to adopt the opportunity to do so.

Thom Gradisher was one of the first people involved in the program. He and his wife enrolled their 7-year-old dog, Baka, this year.

“We travel a lot, and we were thinking about what happens if something happens to us, and we were talking to our lawyer, and she suggested this, so it filled a need,” he said.


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