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How to provide for Fido when you're gone

Pat Trapp is no Leona Helmsley, but her three dogs would be provided for should anything happen to her.

"I strongly believe in finding a way to take care of your animals," said Trapp, executive secretary at PAWS of Bremerton, an East Bremerton pet rescue.

Her duty to her animals is like a parent's duty to a child, she said. That's why 18 percent of her estate is designated for her dogs and their medical, grooming and living expenses.

The Kitsap Humane Society is hosting an estate planning seminar Feb. 24 for people like Trapp, who want to ensure the well-being of their animals should they outlive their owners. In addition to topics such as financial investments and charitable gifts, speakers will advise participants on how to include pets in one's final wishes.

It's a responsibility that many pet owners consider when planning their estate, said Kim McKoy of the Kitsap Humane Society.

"It's absolutely a concern," she said, adding that pets are like a member of the family to animal-lovers. "Your animal may have a long life ahead of them, but you may not."

Although the practice of estate planning for dogs may be associated in pop culture with the late billionaire Leona Helmsley, who bequeathed $12 million to her dog, Trouble, many pet owners see it as taking care of their family.

Richard Shattuck, a Silverdale estate planning attorney speaking at the seminar, said about one in 10 of the estate plans he deals with include special provisions for pets.

"It's much more common than you anticipate," he said, adding that pet care after death is often a concern among single people who have no one else to look after the pets.

Although animal estate planning has been done for a long time, Shattuck said, especially with farmers and ranchers, it's growing among people who own household pets.

"It's really more of an urban practice now," he said.

PAWS of Bremerton sees pets who come in because of a lack of such planning, Trapp said.

"We've had our share of pets who have been returned to us because the owners have passed away," she said, adding that many times a deceased owner's children will drop off the pet because they don't want it.

PAWS receives about two to three calls per year for pets displaced after an owner's death, Trapp added, but larger pet rescue operations likely get more.

The humane society's estate planning seminar is free and open to the public. It runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Silverdale Beach Hotel, located at 3037 NW Bucklin Hill Road in Silverdale. Donations to the humane society will be accepted.

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