You may have heard of the recent brouhaha in Indiana over a deceased woman’s beloved dog, Bella. The beautiful
German Shepherd’s life is hanging in the balance with her fate being decided by the legal process. The woman, who died in November, was not clear in her last will and testament as to why she made the decisions she made. Her attorney has not commented on the case, now with its own Twitter hashtag, #savebella, to any extent that provides clarity. This story serves as a reminder as to why detailed pet trusts are crucial.
Bella the German Shepherd
Bella’s owner had a current will, which is in the process of playing out now. In it, she stated her desire for Bella’s remains to be buried with her. Bella, of course, is still alive, making it impossible for her to be buried with her owner’s remains. At least, it’s impossible to do today. It may be, however, that Bella is euthanized.
Connie Lay’s estate planning attorney, Doug Denmure, stated that his client’s will “stipulates Bella must be euthanized, cremated and buried with her – or sent to an animal shelter in Utah”. Unfortunately, even that’s not clear considering what her attorney said next, “(Lay) made provisions that in the event of her death, she wanted her very close friend to take charge of the dog. She also then requested that the dog be put to sleep, cremated and that the dog’s ashes be placed with her own ashes.” The unanswered questions are frustrating, at best. Does the friend not want the dog? Is the friend unable to take Bella? What did Lay want to happen after the dog was shipped to the shelter in Utah? Denmure said Lay’s will gives her friend the option to send Bella to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, but if that option is “not possible” or “too much expense,” the dog would be euthanized. Was there no trust left for Bella? And what about the time frame associated with these decisions? Denmure says there are no deadlines.
Bella is being housed at a shelter in Indiana. The shelter, PAWS of Dearborn County Humane Shelter, has grown fond of Bella, but there are thousands of people hoping that they can take Bella home with them, especially considering the fact that Bella could be euthanized.
There is another side of this: it could be that Lay didn’t want the pet around others. Denmure said Lay didn’t trust Bella to be around others and the 100-plus pound dog has a history of aggressive behavior. He called the dog “potentially dangerous.” He went on to make an even more alarming statement: “He could cause damage and inflict bodily harm on strangers, in particular, children,” Denmure said. “When (Lay) died, she died at her home and the dog was in there. No one could enter the house because they were concerned the dog would attack.”
At least one veterinarian has suggested Bella be put down.
Bella’s story is one that’s pulling at the heartstrings of animal lovers around the nation (including our own); however, this could have been avoided had Lay been clearer in her last will and testament. Remember, pets are generally deemed property, so Bella will be treated as such. A pet trust would have been an ideal solution.
Inexpensive, these solve a myriad of potential problems for families who want to ensure their pets are cared for in the event they outlive their human family.
Bella’s fate has yet to be decided. If you want to prevent your own pets from being caught in the legal in-between, contact our office today to discuss your options for a pet trust and ensuring their lives are as comfortable as possible.