Photo Credit: hehaden via Compfight cc

Any pet owner would understand the feeling one has when their beloved pet dies. The inexplicable grief, the overwhelming sadness, the emptiness within and maybe even regret that they could not save them. Researchers have associated the reaction and feelings a person experiences similar to when a human family member dies. The sense of loss could even be more pronounced for people who live alone and rely on their pet for companionship. As more and more people adopt pets, the argument over whether owners should be given compassionate/bereavement leave if their pet dies has steadily gained strength. 

Although some people may scoff at the idea of having time off if a pet becomes sick/ill, it appears that the idea is becoming more supportive in recent years particularly in western countries. For example,  a survey undertaken earlier this year in Australia reveals that 74% of respondents believe people should be entitled to bereavement leave if their pet dies. This is not all together too surprising considering that over 63% of households in Australia own pets. Furthermore, according to the RSCPA, a further 1.1 million Australian households intend to acquire a pet over the next 12 months.

Another instance can be seen in the UK where the North Wexford Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NWSPCA) in the UK made a statement for companies to be “more sympathetic to employees” who have pets.  The Society’s chairman believes that employees who have a pet that pass away should be allowed to take mandatory leave from work. Taking the essential break could give people time to grieve properly for their pet in private. He further points out that it would essentially increase an employees sense of loyalty to the company as they are understanding about their situation.

At our veterinary clinic we have witnessed on a regular basis the reactions of people when they have just lost a much loved. Some clients could not even function properly and were in complete shock from the news. In a few cases, we had to ring another family member to come pick them up.  This does not mean that everyone would have such a grave emotional reaction. Other clients coped better and try to get their mind off it by preferring to return to work immediately. Regardless of how a person chooses to respond to the death of a much loved pet, it would make sense for an employer to be more sympathetic to the situation.

As the number of households that have pets increase, undoubtedly employers would become more open to the idea of leave for pet owners. Even your boss would probably have a pet they dote on in their own household! People taking time off for this sort of occurrence may be thought of as a drain on the economy, but it may just what they need to recover quicker and be more a hard working employee once more.