Making the case for Bela

No one wants to think about death, especially during the holidays, but the sad fact of life is that we are all going to die someday — death and taxes, as they say, being the only certainties in life. That’s a hard truth, but that hard truth means that we all should be thinking about what happens to our pets after we are gone, beginning with the critical hours and days following our passing. All too often we don’t plan well, and what will happen to them after we’re gone can be a bit of a gamble.

Over the last few days, a case out of Indiana has captured the attention of animal lovers around the world. Connie Ley passed away on November 25 at her home near Cincinnati. Her senior dog, Bela, was found in the home right by her side. Ms. Ley had a will and had provided two options for Bela. The executor of her estate, Ms. Ley’s close personal friend, was to either transfer Bela to our sanctuary, or put the dog to sleep and inter Bela’s ashes at her late owner’s burial site. It’s a big responsibility and one that seems like a no-brainer, but none of us know the details of conversations that may have transpired between Ms. Ley and her friend regarding her intentions.

This tragic story captured the attention of the media, and stories were popping up all over the country with headlines such as this: “Dog owner’s will: Let him die with me.” Obviously, that kind of headline is shocking to anyone who loves animals.

The request to have Bela transported to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary was a surprise to us. Unfortunately, Ms. Ley had never contacted us prior to her death, so we were reading the same news articles as everyone else. Since that time, our attorney has been in contact with their attorney, and we have reviewed the will.

We want to save Bela’s life and bring him to our sanctuary, but the decision to send him to us or have him put down and cremated is out of our hands. The decision needs to be made by the person designated in Ms. Ley’s will, and we are hopeful that she will agree to allow Bela to come to Best Friends. As might be expected in this age of social media, Ms. Ley and her executor are receiving some flak for the fact that Bela’s fate is still up in the air. As understandable as those sentiments may be, they are not helpful at this difficult time, especially for Bela.

We are continuing to educate the executor of Ms. Ley’s estate about Best Friends’ lifesaving mission and to demonstrate that Bella will be in good hands. Our staff stands at the ready to ensure that Bela receives safe transport to southern Utah, as soon as the executor decides on that option.

This situation is really a great reminder that our animals are our family, and families should plan for their pets who survive them. Whenever possible, the best option is for an adoptive home to have been identified, with informed consent, prior to the owner’s passing. Many people also choose to have a life insurance policy that can help provide for interim or long-term care of a pet. In any event, all concerned should be included in the planning long before there is a need, so that your best friend can be transitioned to a new home or to interim care as quickly and as smoothly as possible.

Best Friends and a few other animal organizations offer a lifetime care program. These programs typically guarantee a safe haven or loving home for a pet for life. However, it is something that needs to be planned for in advance, and organized between you and the organization. Bela is lucky, as we currently have the capability to take him on, but there are countless other Bela's out there that might not have the same positive outcome.  You should never assume any organization will have space to take your animal without making prior arrangements. Most operate at capacity to save as many animals as possible. Click here for more information on our planned giving options.

We thank all of you for your concern for Bela. You can show your support for him to come to Best Friends by sharing this post on your social media pages. Please use the hashtag #SaveBela. Using the hashtag is important, so we can track just how many people want to see Bela be able to live. That show of numbers will be a powerful statement to the decision makers in Bela’s case.

Let’s do what we can to make sure he has a safe and happy holiday.

Together, we can Save Them All.


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society