What was your inspiration behind the book?
Barry and Gerry: We think that when someone brings home a companion animal, they are making a lifetime commitment. Animals humanize us and remind us of our obligations and responsibilities to each other. We believe that planning in advance for a companion animal’s well-being (even when its owner is sick or has passed away) is a moral obligation.
We intended our book, “Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs,” to be a vehicle for sharing information and ideas; for providing guidance to those who would like to explore various planning possibilities; and for stimulating companion animal caregivers to take action while they are able to do so.
We believe that addressing this important topic for everyone concerned with a companion animal’s care, and for all animal lovers, will provide this valuable information to animal owners who need it. We also believe that the book would contribute to reducing the number of orphaned and euthanized pets.
Although our book is U.S.-focused, we believe it will serve as a valuable resource and have general applications in all English common law areas of the world
Why is it essential for pet owners to leave a part of their estate to their pets?
Barry and Gerry: Caretakers of companion animals need to ensure their pets will have an acceptable future.
To do that, they have to choose the right caregiver and establish the amount of money that will be needed to support their companion animal. To achieve these goals, they have to make use of various legal tools and systems. Failure to attend to these matters in a timely manner can lead to disaster for one’s companion animal.
Our book outlines the diverse legal challenges that exist in most jurisdictions in terms of providing any absolute guarantees that a pet owner’s wishes (regarding his or her pet’s future) will be followed. It covers how best to deal with these challenges.
Out of the many strategies/advice that are mentioned in the book, which one would you pick as the most important?
Barry and Gerry: Start now and develop a plan.
Depending on what poll you refer to – more than half of all people do not have a will or even a simple plan in place for continuing care for their pet(s). Once you put a plan in place, explain it to your family members – what you are doing and why. Talk it over with them.
When family members are excluded from this information and only find out what you have planned when your will is read, they may be upset and feel snubbed in favor of your pet. They may challenge your will.
We can’t stress enough the importance of having a plan and putting it into place while a pet owner is still capable.
One of the most common mistakes, or false assumptions that people make when thinking about what will happen to their pets after they die, is that a friend or relative will automatically take their pet. The fact is, a friend or relative may give it away, take it to a shelter or sell it. If your companion animal is inherently a financially valuable animal, the court may decide who ultimately gets your pet. It may be someone whom you would never have wanted to have your companion animal!
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Barry and Gerry: It was disturbing when our research established that a great many people fail to make proper provisions for their companion animals (and families) and consequently, the large number of pets that end up homeless or in shelters. Most of these are euthanized.
What was the most rewarding part of writing the book?
Barry and Gerry: That our message, efforts and seminars may be in some small way motivate pet owners to take action while they are able and hence help reduce the number of orphaned and euthanized pets.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Barry and Gerry: Certain media personalities wrote to us. Ed Asner wrote and said in part:
I’m pleased you sent me an early copy of what I see as a most welcome and entertaining book and most needed … and the guides and help you offer as … expertise are most needed. Thank you for the bright style of your info and all the help you provide for all of us.
Martha Stewart wrote and said in part:
Thank you or sending me a copy of your book “Fat Cats & Lucky Dogs.” I look forward to reading it on my next vacation. It is so nice to see other animal lovers taking the time to instruct people on how to care for their pet’s well being.
Generally speaking, everyone who has bought our book has been pleased with its contents and information.
What is your writing process?
Barry and Gerry: Over a period of many years, we collected relevant information, reviewed existing cases, as well as significant legislation.
We gathered examples from Barry’s private law practice and Gerry’s academic research and teaching, and wove it together with data about companion animals and created what we hope is a valuable resource and enjoyable book to read.
We also included an extensive set of supplementary material that covers pets throughout history, pets of the rich and/or famous, expected lifespan of various types of pets, problems affecting exotic animals, sample will provisions for pets, U.S. state pet trust statutes, sample pet trust provisions, after-death services for pets, virtual pet cemeteries and memorial sites, pet loss support resources, animal retirement homes and more.
Do you own a cat or other pets? Tell us about them!
Barry: At home, we currently have a blue tongue skink lizard called Baloo and a python snake called Viper, both of whom are owned by our 24-year-old son. We also have a small brown rat called Lucky, owned by our 18-year-old daughter. They are supposed to be fully responsible for both the care and planning for their pets, but all six of our children are now away at universities or colleges.
Up until about a few years ago, we also had a family dog who was a Coton de Tulear (my third dog) called Hippy. Prior to that, we had two Boxers consecutively called Rebel and Rocky and we have had a multitude of birds, a rabbit called Oreo and a hamster. I have cared for and loved animals all my life.
Have you written any other books?
Barry: I have. There are three other books I have authored and co-authored. One was a serious book about estate planning for people, called “No-One Should Have An Unplanned Death.” The other two were light-hearted and dealt with humorous, strange and bizarre lawsuits called “It takes Two Judges To Try A Cow” and “The Other F-Word.”
Gerry: I am a frequent contributor to both scholarly and practice-orientated publications and have authored and co-authored numerous books and articles focusing on various aspects of estate planning, including a two-volume treatise on Texas wills law and a nationally-marketed estate planning casebook published by the West, a Thomson business. In 1993, I received the Probate & Property Excellence in Writing Award for Best Cutting Edge Article for Probate and Trust as well as the 2001 Probate & Property Excellence in Writing Award for Best Overall Article in Probate and Trust. I have been the Keeping Current Probate editor for Probate & Property magazine since 1992.
Do your pets influence your writing?
Barry: Our pets influence more than just my writing – they have had a profound influence on my world view and how I see our relationship with animals in general.
Someone wiser than I said: “It is not just that animals make the world more scenic or picturesque. The lives of animals are woven into our very being – closer than our own breathing – and our soul will suffer when they are gone.” – Gary Kowalski, Author