The Humane Society of Canada’s Campaign to Help Animals Now and Forever

The only things for sure in life are death, taxes -- and pets? That’s the message from The Humane Society of Canada, which is launching its first ever public campaign asking people to remember animals when making out their Will, according to Al Hickey, Western Regional Director

"We wanted to take a light hearted look at death and dying, and ask people to remember the fur faces in our family who have stolen our hearts. When you’re sitting down to write your Will, you want to ask yourself who always loves you. And the answer is, that bundle of fur or feathers right next to you (or on top of your papers if he’s a cat)," said Hickey, who has six grandchildren and who has worked for charities helping animals and children for decades.

"We write our Will when we are alive for people and charities who are living. So writing our Will is not about death at all, but rather about life in the future and being remembered for who we were and what we did," said Hickey who turned 70 this year.

"Our job is to help people and their animals by making sure that their wishes are carried out and that every penny of their hard earned money is spent carefully and wisely. And to be sure that the government gets as little as possible in the way of taxes," said HSC Executive Director, Michael O'Sullivan.

"That’s why we’ve come up with eight easy steps to help people make out their Will. People can either do themselves, have a professional advisor do it for them, or work with our professional advisors who will do the work for free because they care about animals and have agreed to donate their services," he said, telling donors: "The choice is yours. After all, it is your money."

"However, most important of all, if you have any animals, we have come up with a way to care for your beloved pets after you have passed away, through our Guardian Angels for Animals Program," said O’Sullivan, who has four dogs and two cats of his own.

The program ensures that a person’s pets are placed into a permanent loving home, that they are checked over by a veterinarian twice a year and receive whatever medical care they need. While he has heard that some organizations charge anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 a year per pet for such a service, O’Sullivan wants people to know that The Humane Society of Canada is not one of them: "If people are kind enough to leave something in their Will to help animals it just doesn’t seem right to me to charge them to take care of their own animals," he said.

The animal charity also honours donors who remember the animals in their Will through their unique Book of Remembrance Program and plants a Tree of Life in their wildlife rainforest preserve called the Forest of Forever. The organization also works with donors to set up funds named after their pets. One of their donors honoured her beloved Siamese cat after she had passed away by setting up The Silver Paws Fund to help animals.

Over the past 30 years, O’Sullivan’s globetrotting adventures to help animals have taken him across Canada and to more than 85 countries. Along the way, he and his staff have also picked up a lot of expertise to help people living in Canada, or Canadians who have investments or who may live abroad with their charitable gift and estate planning.

"We want to let everyone know that we are their one stop shopping resource to help them plan ahead for themselves, their pets, animals and nature," said O’Sullivan.

Although, O’Sullivan is only 48, he has had a Will since he was 23 years old: "That’s because I work in so many dangerous situations here in Canada and around the world helping animals. And with a wife, two small children, and a houseful of dogs and cats who depend on me, my family doesn’t need any unpleasant surprises if anything happens to me. Everything is already taken care of," said O’Sullivan.

"I updated my own Will not very long ago. I took care of my family and my pets, and then I started leaving money to The Humane Society of Canada and other good causes. Within five minutes, I had given away more than I had in my entire lifetime. But the point of this story is not to tell you what a wonderful person I am, but to tell you how good I felt about doing it.

And the best part of all is that once I was finished, I hadn’t taken a single penny out of my current bank account. I didn’t feel a thing. It is the only donation which each and every one of us can ever make in the thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars," said O’Sullivan.

Gifts can include cash, publicly traded shares (like stocks and bonds), real estate, wildlife preserves, boats, cars, life insurance policies, retirement saving plans, jewelry, works of art, rare books, coins, stamps, furniture, and so forth. Rather than waiting until they pass on, some people also decide to help animals by making large gifts while they are still alive, and in this way, they can also make use of tax breaks that are available.

O’Sullivan says he is very concerned about a recent study showing that 7 out of 10 Canadians do not have a Will: "That means that the government decides what happens to your hard earned money," he says with a shudder. "And that should be enough to make anyone sit down today and start making out their Will.

He also urges people that already have a Will to review it regularly to reflect changes in their wishes and changes in tax laws. Also, at present, many provinces still do not recognize common laws status or same sex relationships for estate purposes.

"We’re asking Canadians of all ages, from all walks of life, to say: I WILL for animals," said O’Sullivan.

CONTACT: Al Hickey or Michael O'Sullivan by calling toll free 1-800-641-KIND or Michael on his cell phone (416) 876-9685 or at

[For more than 17 years, Al Hickey was the Chief Executive of the BC SPCA and before that headed up the Alberta and BC Chambers of Commerce, and the Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Vancouver. He has 6 grandchildren.

A father with two small children, and a houseful of dogs and cats, O'Sullivan has worked in Canada and in over 85 countries during the last 30 years helping people, animals and nature.]

The Humane Society works to protect dogs, cats, horses, birds, livestock, lab animals and the environment. They carry out hands on programs to help animals and nature, mount rescue operations, expose cruelty through hard hitting undercover investigations, work to pass laws to protect animals, fund scientific research, support animal shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centres and spreads the word about how to help animals and nature through humane education.


In the words of Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Research conducted by The Humane Society of Canada using sources in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States found that:

  • The average age at death of someone who leaves a gift to a charity in their Will is 83 years of age and the chances are that 2 out these 3 will be women
  • On average, women outlive men by 7 years
  • Men want reports on how their funds will be used
  • Women want to develop a rapport and have an ongoing relationship with the charity
  • One charitable gift planner described the differences between the sexes this way: : "Men will sit through the Olympics for almost anything, as long as they get to see some winners and losers, but women want to know who the athletes are and what sacrifices they made"
  • Women determine 80% of consumer decisions, family lifestyle, health care and home spending decisions
  • While 1 in 3 Canadians need legal help each year, many will not hire a lawyer. They may mistrust the legal system. They don’t know how to find a good lawyer or manage the costs involved. Others may believe they can handle it themselves or the problem will go away
  • For those people that do have a Will, many of them have not been updated to reflect changes in tax laws or changes in who people want to receive their hard earned money
  • A survey found that 7out of 10 Canadians do not have a Last Will and Testament
  • If this trend continues, about 2 million Canadians will die intestate by the year 2010
  • In other words this will mean that government agencies will decide what do with
  • an estimated $ 700 billion left behind by people who have failed to make out their Will - which is hardly the way people want to see their hard earned money spent
  • The survey found that 78% of Canadians directly support charities, but only 7% include a gift to charities in their Will
  • However, 34% of Canadians said that they would consider leaving a donation to their favourite charity
  • There are an estimated 6.43 million cats and 6.04 million dogs living in Canadian homes and unknown numbers of horses, birds, hamsters, rabbits, fish and other animals
  • 6 out of every 10 Canadian families has pets
  • 1 out of every 3 Canadian families watch and feed birds
  • 9 out of 10 Canadians support the protection of wildlife
  • In the United Kingdom, animal welfare causes receive the second greatest number of gifts left by people in their Wills - more than $ 50 million each year
  • A survey of pet owners in Canada and the United States found that of those who have a Will, 27% have included provisions in their Will to care for their petsIn the United Kingdom, the average value of an estate which includes a gift to a charity is $ 230,000
  • In the United Kingdom, the most popular time of year for making out a Will is the month of March
  • In the United Kingdom each year about $ 5.25 million to government from people who died in intestate which numbers about 1 in 4 people
  • In the United States, the Leave A Legacy program, estimates that only about 1 out of every 2 people have made out their Last Will and Testament and that less than 5% will leave a gift to charity

What Events In Our Lives Cause Us to Make Out Our Will?

Death of a pet
Wanting to provide for our pets
Wanting to help other animals
Wanting to help the environment
Buying a first house
The death of a parent
The death of a spouse
The death a relative or friend
Receiving an inheritance
Children become independent
Winning a lottery
Changes in tax laws
Travel or holidays
Disasters like September 11th
Being fired or laid off
A severe illness or accident
A severe illness or accident that harms a relative or friend


Why Do We Need a Last Will and Testament?

To be prepared. For example:

Dying too soon: You need to sufficiently provide for those left behind.

Living Too Long: You need to make sure that as you grow older that you don’t outlive the amount of money you need to take care of yourself and those who are important to you.

Emergencies: Planning ahead may ease the hardships of unforeseen illness, accident or financial problems

Mental and physical disability: In the event you become too ill or disabled to care for yourself or others who are important to you.

Why Do People Make Out A Last Will and Testament. What Is Important To Them?

Community - Doing good make sense
Religious - God rewards kindness to animals
Investment - Doing good is good business
Social - Doing good is fun
Repayment - Doing good in return
Personal - Doing good feels right
Historical - Doing good is a family tradition