Pets are family too – have you thought about their future?

It is often said that death and taxes are the only two things unavoidable in life. And while we can plan for taxes, death is both unavoidable and unpredictable, often leaving a multitude of strings left untied. For pet owners, the fate of a pet is a very serious string that is sometimes left hanging when someone passes.

 The healthcare organization Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care has created a program to help tie up this string called Pet Peace of Mind.

Cornerstone Hospice, which covers Lake, Sumpter, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Highlands, and Hardy counties, was the first chapter to offer Pet Peace of Mind in Florida. The local chapter is led by the volunteer services manager at Cornerstone, Kristine Murtz.

“People at work know me as the crazy animal lady. If you called Cornerstone and said “I need to talk to the animal lady” they would send your call to me.” laughed Murtz when asked to explain why she was so passionate about the Pet Peace of Mind program.

The local Cornerstone chapter is large. It serves 1,250 patients a day, has almost 1,000 volunteers and nearly 900 employees. Many of these volunteers are animal lovers and use their time to help take care of patients’ pets.

“We even have animal volunteers. So we have pet therapy teams visit long-term care facilities, nursing homes, assisted living. And magic happens when animals come in the room. The pet therapy dogs will go in with patients and make them smile.” explained Murtz.  “Volunteers also do things like walk dogs, scoop kitty litter boxes, deliver food, drive pets to and from the vet or the groomer, take pets to their new home, do reference checks for adoptions, things like that.”

Red Bone meeting our journalists at Florida Film Academy.

Throughout the years, Murtz has dealt with a wide variety of animals in her running of the Pet Peace of Mind chapter. Patients have dogs of all sizes, cats, birds, pigs, chickens, roosters, and even donkeys! It’s clear that the program keeps one on their toes.

The needs of every pet and owner are different, too. While some just need help taking care of their animals, others leave this world without a plan for their beloved pets. As a result, the job of finding a good and happy home for the pets falls on Murtz and her team.

“We’re not a rescue, but we will assist patients and families with rehoming their pets while still trying to keep them together as long as possible,” said Murtz. “So, that human-animal bond we respect and have emphasized can remain strong throughout care. We make sure to bug all of our staff and ask “Are there any pets in the home, are there any pets in the home?” to make sure that every animal is safe and cared for.”

No matter the scenario, the employees at Cornerstone Hospice always work hard to make sure the needs of both their patients and their patients’ pets are cared for. “When someone knows you don’t just care about them but that you also care about their kitty cat, that just makes you closer. And that’s why the main focus of our program is to make sure that, no matter what breed, owner and pet can stay together.” said Murtz.
If you would like to adopt one of their pets in need of a home, are in need of their services, or wish to volunteer, you can contact Kristine Murtz at (352) 742-6895, go to, or visit their Facebook page – Cornerstone Hospice Pet Peace of Mind.

Story by:

Shelby beck

Age 16