New law protects pets following owners' death

Senate Bill 685, authored by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, is intended to reduce the burden on pet shelters, conserve public services and funds, protect animals and guarantee that people's wills are carried out as intended.

"Pets are an important part of the American family," Yee said in a prepared statement. "SB 685 will make pet trusts enforceable and assure that the wishes of pet owners are respected."

Pet trusts in the state are currently honorary and not enforceable by law, but SB 685 will remove the discretion of trustees in fulfilling the trust, as well as allow courts to appoint a caregiver if the trustee does not wish to arrange for the pet care.

Many animal shelters are filled with pets of deceased owners, despite the efforts of many owners to make arrangements for the pets after their deaths.

"This is a great step forward in protecting pets throughout California," Jan McHugh-Smith, president of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a prepared statement.

"SB 685 will provide the legal basis to make certain that the careful planning of pet owners is carried out and that pets continue to be cared for and safeguarded even after the passing of their owners," McHugh said.

The new law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

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