As 26-year-old Jeff Solomon* climbed on his motorcycle and headed to work, he never imagined it would be his last ride.
When Solomon was killed in a traffic accident in Washington, D.C., he’d made no prior arrangements for his pit bull. Only through the concerted efforts of multiple people and rescue groups was the dog adopted into a loving home and saved from going to a shelter.
This is just one of the many calls Virginia Kilmer has received at Perpetual Care, a life care center for pets who outlive their guardians.
“Not everyone dies of old age, so you always need to have a plan,” says Kilmer, who worked at an animal shelter and repeatedly saw once cherished pets surrendered—and often euthanized—because their person had died and there was no family member or friend to take them.
Her own beloved Chelsea, a Bichon Frise she’d had for 16 years, had recently passed away. Not long after, she met an older woman walking a young Bichon Frise and they began chatting. The woman volunteered that when she died she planned to have her dog euthanized because no one in her family would take her.
Haunted by that conversation and her work at the shelter, Kilmer had a revelation. Why not create an organization dedicated to helping people protect their pets from an uncertain future?
“For years I was working on the back end, trying to help animals that were already at the shelter. I needed to get out ahead of it and help people plan so their animals don’t ever end up there,” says Kilmer, who regularly speaks with welfare groups and at pet expos about the necessity of planning ahead for pets.
In 2002, Kilmer started her non-profit organization while living in Virginia. Perpetual Care is now an approved non-profit in Florida and can assist people anywhere in the United States.
“We think of pets as family members, but the law sees them as property. The best way to protect them is with a legally binding document known as a Pet Life Care Agreement, designating your pets to another person or an organization to care for them in the event of an accident, illness, disability or death,” she explains.
Kilmer’s organization can also help pet owners create a pet trust, an agreement for pet life care that includes funds that are kept in trust for the care of the pet(s). Sometimes this is accomplished by designating a life insurance policy for that purpose.
“Our mission is to keep pets who have lost their owners from going into shelters,” says Kilmer. “This helps shelters already overburdened with animals and ensures pets are safe and have a loving home for the remainder of their lives.”
Perpetual Care – Life Care for Pets › perpetualcare.org › (888) 355-7091
* name has been changed to protect family privacy