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Pet Survivor Program (PSP)

Planning ahead is the best insurance.

It’s an all-too familiar scenario: cages of despondent animals in shelters with the words “owner died” or “owner in nursing home” on their name cards. Many of these animals are senior pets who have little chance of being adopted because they are competing for space with much younger animals for adoption.

Many animals end up in shelters and are needlessly euthanized because their owners didn’t plan for their care after they are unable to provide it. Established by Hopalong in 2001, the Pet Survivor Program (PSP), formerly known as HARPS, is a formal arrangement between Hopalong and pet owners. The plan becomes effective when a pet’s owner passes away or becomes incapacitated. In such an event, we will step in based on their planned bequest, and make sure that their furry family members are cared for and placed in loving homes. We then become the pet’s guardian and advocate.

Our pets depend on us for food, shelter and companionship. If you’re not there, who will provide it?

The goals of the PSP program are two-fold: to ensure that your beloved pet never ends up in a shelter, and to give peace of mind to participants at a time when they are coping with difficult life decisions. We are able to help what are often senior or special-needs animals using the resources provided by PSP participants, coupled with the great network of foster homes and adopters who recognize the wonderful attributes of senior animals.

With the Pet Survivor Program, you can have peace of mind now knowing that we will be your pet’s guardian later.

If you are interested in participating in the PSP program or have general estate planning questions, please contact Juliet Boyd, Executive Director at (510) 267-1915 x111  or by email at

Who is Hopalong Animal Rescue?

Started in 1993, Hopalong Animal Rescue is a well-established and highly regarded non-profit organization that rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes over 1400 shelter animals a year. We rescue numerous dogs and cats from Bay Area shelters that are surrendered by their owners, abandoned or at risk for euthanasia. Thanks to hundreds of dedicated volunteers and a close working relationship with several Bay Area animal shelters and animal welfare agencies, we have found homes for more than 29,000 loving animals.

Planning Ahead

Our pets depend on us daily for food, shelter and companionship. Who will look after your beloved companion animal in the event of your passing, or if you become incapacitated. It is important to have formal arrangements for your animal’s future care. Hopalong Animal Rescue’s Pet Survivor Program is committed to watching over your pet when you are no longer able to.

Our Pet Survivor Program assists you in creating a future care plan and trust fund that will help to ensure that your cherished dog or cat is properly taken care of. If you do not have someone in your life that is committed and able to permanently care for your dog or cat, Hopalong stands ready to act as your pet’s future guardian. If you do have someone you have designated to receive your pet, we can still manage the finances of all future veterinary care if needed.

From Caring Foster Families to Permanent Loving Homes

Pets enrolled in our Pet Survivor Program will be placed in loving, caring foster homes. Hopalong Animal Rescue is experienced and at the ready to give your animal a caring environment and personal attention as he or she adjusts to life without you. Hopalong Animal Rescue is highly regarded in our community, and has an excellent record of finding adoptive homes that match the needs of both the owner and the animal. We find that 98% of our Pet Survivor Animals move immediately into adoptive homes within 48 hours of arriving at Hopalong due to the popularity of the program.

We Watch Over Your Pet’s Quality of Life

As a participant in our Pet Survivor Program, you entrust Hopalong to monitor and have full discretion over your pet’s well-being and healthcare. We will cover all medical bills up to the designated amount left in your will for your pet’s lifetime. We do this by paying vets directly whenever your dog or cat is brought to any vet the new, adoptive family uses. In rare cases and in conjunction with your pet’s veterinarian, Hopalong will make the difficult decision of euthanasia if your pet’s quality of life is compromised due to advanced age or the need for extensive, indefinite medical treatment. If it is determined that your animal is beyond the capabilities of reasonably employed veterinary medicine and economically treatable care, the decision to alleviate suffering will be at the final discretion of Hopalong Animal Rescue.

We understand that you are concerned about your animal’s future without you. Hopalong exists for the humane treatment of companion animals. Therefore, we cannot honor provisions in wills that ask us to euthanize an animal in good health and temperament simply because an owner has passed away.

How it works

Once someone enrolls in the Pet Survivor Program, we learn everything there is to know about your pet(s), and find out what kind of home you think would keep your animal(s) the happiest. You share their favorite foods, toys, daily structure, medical requirements, home environment etc., and we keep all of this information in our database.

If anything should happen to you, we get notified by one of your contacts (friends or family), and immediately pick up your animals from your home so that they don’t go to the local animal shelter (which is what immediately happens if a police or fire officer enters your home and finds animals on the premises.) From there, we begin the immediate rehoming process based on your criteria and wishes. Given that our program is 19 years old and well known, we alert our network of over 10,000 community members that we have Pet Survivor candidates that have just come in our doors. Placement in nearly always immediate given the program’s popularity and reputation.

It often takes about a year for many trusts and estates to be settled, but we begin covering all medical needs for your pets immediately in their new home. Adopters never receive the money you have set aside directly; we pay all vet bills directly to the vets themselves, or reimburse the adopters directly. This way we also stay in touch with the adopters to keep on top of the well- being and health of your pet(s) for the rest of their life.

Establishing a Durable Power of Attorney

Because a will takes effect after your death and it can take several months before legal formalities are completed, your attorney can help you create a Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) to benefit your pet. A DPA can ensure immediate provisions for your pet if you are mentally or physically unable to manage your own affairs. A DPA is a legal document that gives specific instructions of whom will oversee your personal affairs how your pet (legally defined as property) is managed during your inability to handle these matters on your own. Your DPA can formally designate Hopalong Animal Rescue as your animal’s caretaker during your incapacitation and provides funds for your pet’s care without any legal delays.

Trusts vs. Wills

Because a will has limitations and often goes through a lengthy probate court process before your pet’s long-term care plan is realized, Hopalong Animal Rescue recommends that you set up a Trust. Unlike a will, a trust lets you state when you want its terms to become effective. This is an important consideration if you become terminally ill or incapacitated. By establishing a trust for your pet, you can designate money to Hopalong Animal Rescue that is specifically to be used for your pet’s care while you are disabled. As an enrollee of the program, you will provide Hopalong with a copy of the pertinent parts of your will or trust that identify Hopalong as the legal recipient of your animals. You will also provide Hopalong with contact information for your executor or trustee in order to expedite the legal process of caring for your animal.

Emergency Alerts

As an enrollee in the program, you will provide Hopalong Animal Rescue with your pet’s vital information, including a photo and full profile that will help us identify and accurately place your animal. During your enrollment process, Juliet Boyd, Executive Director of Hopalong Animal Rescue, will discuss each of your pets in depth with you so that Hopalong will have a baseline of knowledge of your animals in case something happens and they need to act quickly. Together, a full plan of rehoming will be put into place with your personal preferences for the type of home that will make your pet the happiest.

How much does the Pet Survivor Program cost?

Hopalong Animal Rescue does not ask for a set upfront fee per animal enrolled into the program. Instead, we ask that you make a bequest to Hopalong Animal Rescue in your will or trust. This gift will then allow for the care of your pet and adoption into a new home. Any remaining funds from your trust or gift will support Hopalong Animal Rescue’s work in fostering and placing hundreds of animals each year. Hopalong Animal Rescue asks that you gift a minimum of $10,000 per animal toward your pets’ future care. However, most individuals choose to leave more, depending on the anticipated health and age of your pets at the time they may enter the Pet Survivor Program. Vet bills and medications over an entire lifetime can be expensive, and Hopalong stays current with veterinary care costs which is how the estimate has been created.

By naming Hopalong in your will, your participating in our Pet Survivor Program requires no immediate monetary gift to enroll. Gifts of real estate or stock can be fully or partially bequested to Hopalong. Other ways of making a gift include naming Hopalong Animal Rescue as a beneficiary in your Life Insurance Policy, IRA or 401K. Since we are non-profit organization, your gift will gain maximum tax advantages for your estate. Hopalong Animal Rescue receives no local, state or federal funding. We are able to save over 1,400 animals a year through the generous support and care of individuals like you. Your gift to Hopalong Animal Rescue will be a lasting legacy to the love of your pet and for the humane treatment of animals throughout the Bay Area.

What makes the Hopalong program so special?

We feel as though it is an honor to carry out your wishes and care for your pet(s) when you are gone. Our organization is highly respected, 26 years old, and is the largest, all-foster rescue group in the Bay Area with over 480 foster homes. Our Pet Survivor Program has been around for nearly 20 years, and we are the only program in the area that not only rehomes your pets with your specific wishes and criteria after your passing, we oversee their medical coverage and well-being for the rest of their lives. We are one of the few in the country who offer a program of this caliber, and we have animals enrolled in the PSP program from outside of California as well.

A few other ways that we are set apart from other programs is that we go directly to your home upon your passing to get your animals. Your pets are never housed in facilities during their transition, they will live in caring foster homes rather than in a shelter setting which reduces the trauma of a major life transition. Hopalong is a well-established organization with a proven track record, and we specialize in matching pets with quality permanent homes. We can provide a comfortable place for your pet, loving attention, and excellent veterinary care. Also, by enrolling in the Pet Survivor Program, you can leave a legacy that will aid us in our ongoing mission to help all animals in need.

To plan ahead for your pet, please call our Executive Director, Juliet Boyd, at (510) 267-1915 ext 111, or email her at


What if my pet is old or in poor health?

If you enroll your pet in the Pet Survivor Program, Hopalong will accept your pet regardless of his or her physical condition. During the period of transitioning to a new home, Hopalong will provide foster care for your pet as long as needed.

What services will the Pet Survivor Program provide for my pet if I die?

Hopalong will become your pet’s legal owner and guardian, and will start caring for your pet as soon as we receive notice of your death. We will then place your pet up for adoption to a suitable, loving home consistent with the information in his or her Pet Profile. Enrollment in the Pet Survivor Program ensures that your pet will receive compassionate care for the rest of his or her life.

Do I need to pay anything up front?

No. The Pet Survivor Program is funded through planned giving in wills and trusts that take effect upon a person’s death. There is no membership fee or cost to you during your lifetime.

I don’t have much money, but I have a life insurance policy and some physical assets. Can I still participate in the Pet Survivor Program?

Absolutely. Hopalong accepts planned gifts in the form of real estate, stock or other assets, which can be partially or fully donated to us in your will or trust. You can also designate Hopalong as your life insurance beneficiary. Hopalong can work with you to create a special plan that suits your individual needs and ensures lifelong care for your pet.

Will my pet be adopted through the Pet Survivor Program?

Yes. The only reason an adoption would not go through is if a pet is deemed dangerous to people. We have never had this happen to date.

Where will my pet live while he or she is awaiting a new home?

While we work to find a permanent home for your pet, he or she will live in a qualified foster home with a Hopalong volunteer. Our foster volunteers are all experienced and sensitive to the special needs of surviving pets, and will provide love and attention as well as physical care.

What if I have additional pets at the time of my death? Will the Pet Survivor Program cover them, too?

Pet Survivor enrollment is done per pet, so if you add a new pet to your family, you should notify Hopalong and enroll your new pet separately. We will do our best to help other pets but cannot guarantee coverage unless we know about them prior to your death and their needs are provided for in your will or trust.

What if my animal is difficult to place?

Hopalong specializes in adopting out elderly and special needs animals and is highly successful at doing it. We can handle shy animals and feral cats. We cannot place dogs that are human aggressive or highly dog aggressive. Animals are evaluated when they enter the program.

If I have more than one pet enrolled in the Pet Survivor Program, can they be adopted together?

Hopalong will try its best to place multiple pets in the same adoptive home. Be sure to specify your preference in their Pet Profile forms, so that we know you want them to stay together. To date, every pairing or group of animals that have been requested to be adopted together have been.

If my pet dies while I am still alive, can I transfer his or her Pet Survivor enrollment to another pet?

Yes. You can change your will or trust at any time during your life. Just be sure to notify Hopalong of the changes, and send us copies of your revised will or trust. It may be necessary to change the amount of your planned charitable gift, depending on the type of pet you enroll. Hopalong will work with you to make sure your planned gift covers all of your enrolled pets. We will also ask you to complete a Pet Profile form for each animal, so that we can find the best possible home for him or her. If your pet died and you replaced it with a similar type of pet but forgot to change the name, we would take the pet as long as he/she was not aggressive and his/her needs were provided for.

Why should I enroll my pet in the Pet Survivor Program? Can’t I just have a friend or relative take care of my pets if necessary?

Although designating a friend or relative to care for your pet is an option, Pet Survivor enrollment will give you greater security and long-term peace of mind. When the time comes, your trusted friend or relative may be unable to take your pets due to financial, health, family, or housing constraints. If your friend/relative chooses to place the animal, he/she may not know what to look for in a permanent home. Hopalong has signed paperwork with all adopters and will take your animal back for the life of your pet if something happens to the new guardian.

If you do trust a friend or relative however to take your pets upon your passing, you can still enroll them in our Pet Survivor Program and designate them as the recipients / adopters of your pet(s). The same process would then be applied – we would continue to cover all of the medical bills for your pet(s)s for the rest of their lives directly to your friend’s vet, or reimburse your friend directly. This way, we can also stay in touch with your friends for the rest of your pet(s) life to check in, lend support or advice, and continue to stay abreast of your pet’s well-being.

Is Hopalong able to be a back-up for placement with a friend or relative?

We can act as a back-up but animals need to be signed up for the program, and we need to be aware of the circumstances. It complicates the situation and can leave your animal in limbo while the executor figures out if the other person can take the animal. In some cases, an animal could end up in the shelter while this is being figured out.

What if I want to leave an additional gift to Hopalong?

We welcome planned gifts as these legacies help animals for years to come. There are many ways that this can be done and we will be happy to talk to you about what works best for you.

Please contact Juliet Boyd at for more information. We are here to help!