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Social workers, case managers, and hospital staff often discover the infirm and elderly people are pet owners who lack family or friends to care for their animals. It is important to remember that all pets rely on their caretakers, and a coordination of care may be necessary to ensure the welfare of animals in an individual’s absence. The following information is intended to serve as a guide to help pet owners who require hospitalization.

What Social Workers and Their Agencies Can Do

  • Engage with an individual about plans for their pet. Gather pet history, including age, health, medical information, and behaviors. A plan can include:
    • Family, friend, and/or neighbor to pet-sit
    • Local boarding
    • Foster care
    • Surrender of the pet
  • Help the individual determine the reality of their situation in regards to hospital timing and required pet care. This may include seeking temporary pet care (several weeks, months) or a permanent new home
  • Recommend the animal be up-to-date on vaccinations and spayed/neutered, and offer resources to help the individual prepare their pet for a temporary or permanent new home
  • Formally document information on the pet in a treatment chart, and include a pet photo, if possible

 If a permanent new home is needed:

  • Explore with the individual what they hope a new home would be like for their pet (with/without other animals, a family with children, etc.)
  • If appropriate, try to arrange a “last visit” for the owner and their pet to say goodbye
  • If appropriate, consider giving the owner a photo of their pet as a token of their relationship

 During a Hospitalization:

  • When possible, contact family, friends, next of kin, and neighbors to ensure pet care arrangements as soon as possible. If these options do not exist, contact neighborhood veterinary clinics or local boarding facilities that may have a history of the pet
  • Do not leave pets unattended for long periods
  • When no other care can be coordinated and the person’s ability to provide care is unknown, a social worker may need to contact Pet Help Partners (917-468-2938) for referrals to low-cost boarding or Animal Care and Control of NYC (AC&C) (dial 311) for animal protection

 Requesting Assistance from AC&C to Remove Pets:

  • AC&C requires several documents prior to offering assistance, including a notorized letter on agency or hospital letterhead stating that the individual in their care cannot care for their pet. The request is either for temporary care (the owner can reclaim the pet within seven days) or for permanent relinquishment
  • If care is only needed for up to seven days, the Owner’s Consent for AC&C Assistance Form must be completed (please note, AC&C requires financial reimbursement in order to release an animal)
  • If care is needed for more than seven days, a second document, AC&C Intake Release Form, must be signed by the owner and returned to AC&C 

Tips and Tools

Request for Assistance from AC&C