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Owners find 'Peace of Mind,' adoption for pets

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Pet owners across the country are investing in "Peace of Mind."

Perpetual care for pets is part of a growing trend, right along with pet custody lawsuits, grief counseling books and pet health insurance, says Alan Beck, director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond at Purdue University.

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"Animals for many people are members of the family, and it is only natural for them to want to care for them," Beck says. "In a way, including a pet in a will or making arrangements for their care after an owner dies is comparable to providing life insurance for children. Just like parents care for their children, they want to make sure their beloved pets are well provided for."

Purdue's Peace of Mind program asks that the pet owner pledge a minimum of $25,000 per pet. After the owner dies, the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine works with its network of veterinary alumni to find a suitable home for the pet, and the pledge covers the animal's lifetime routine medical needs. Any remaining money is invested in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

Since Purdue's program was created in 1996, 39 pets (26 dogs and 13 cats) have been enrolled by 13 individuals who have pledged a total of $1.3 million. One donor recently increased his pledge, which will double the current total.

Some of the other veterinary schools in the United States have similar programs, though they vary in format. For example, some programs place animals in university facilities where they live with veterinary students. Beck says how the programs are implemented may differ, but the concept of caring for pets after their owners die is on the rise.

Peace of Mind provides just that for the owners, because they are comforted knowing that arrangements have been made for their pet. Beck says in addition to preventing anxiety, programs such as Peace of Mind can be healthy for the pet owner and animal.

"It's important to not deny animal companionship for older people because they are less mobile and isolated," Beck says. "With these kinds of options, an older pet owner won't feel guilty about bringing a companion animal into their home late in their lives."

Planning ahead not only will prevent the pet from being homeless, it also will prevent tension among other family members who may not want to adopt the pet. Without such programs, Beck says, some devoted pet owners might choose to have their pets euthanized when they die because of a lack of options.

"The arrogance that my dog loved me so much and it's just going to die when I go, is simply that – arrogance," Beck says. "People learn to form new relationships or even remarry after a death. Animals can form new bonds just like we do. The saying you can't teach an old dog new tricks does not apply here. Animals, like people, have the same flexibility to forge new relationships."

For more information about the Purdue Peace of Mind program, contact the School of Veterinary Medicine at (800) 830-0104.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: Alan Beck, (765) 494-0854,

Kevin Doerr, director of alumni relations and public affairs, (765) 494-6304,

Edward Haelterman, professor emeritus of veterinary medicine, plays with his 4-year-old black lab Katie. More pet owners are taking advantage of programs, such as Purdue's Peace of Mind, that care for pets after the owner dies. Almost 40 pets are enrolled in Purdue's Peace of Mind program. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

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