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Should there be compassionate leave for death of pets?

Emilie Heyl

Half of pet-owning Brits (50 percent) believe dog and cat owners should be given compassionate leave from work, if their pet passes away and 89 percent believe the death of a canine or feline companion is just as difficult to handle as the passing of a loved one. Contributor Emilie Heyl, Country Manager – Wamiz UK.

These are the findings of a survey by pet website, ahead of National Grief Awareness Week 2019 (December 2 to 8), that should make HR departments and business owners pause for thought when an employee is grieving the loss of a pet. The survey found that potential mental health issues could emerge following pet loss, when the need to talk is vital but difficult for owners to do.

44 percent of pet owners surveyed by Wamiz said they still find it extremely difficult to talk about a former pet’s death, whilst another 32 percent still find it a little difficult.  This is despite the fact that 65 percent of those surveyed lost their dog or cat more than a year ago.

70 percent of those who have suffered a loss of a pet also say they find it more difficult to talk about their sense of loss with non-pet owners.

A desire to not let go and have a beloved former pet near at hand also shone through Wamiz’s survey.  84 percent of owners keep a pet’s ashes at home, whilst 62 percent have buried their pet in their garden.

More than eight-in-ten (85 percent) owners also keep a tangible keepsake of their former pet at home, be that a photo, piece of fur, collar, bowl or toy, 88 percent of owners stayed with their pet to the very end of their life and nearly 9 percent could not do that, as it would have been too upsetting and emotional.  Over a third of pet owners (38 percent) say they would have liked a funeral or ceremony for their lost pet.

With pets increasingly regarded in the same way as children in the UK, the associated impacts of pet loss are not too surprising but do have clear ramifications in the workplace.

Wamiz’s UK Country Manager, Emilie Heyl, says: “Brits clearly bring their dogs and cats into the family fold and have as deep an emotional attachment to them, as they have to other members of the family or to friends.  Whilst, in the past, the sense of loss following the passing of a pet may have gone unappreciated or ignored, at a time when mental health campaigners are urging us to talk through our emotions, or listen to others who are suffering mental health issues, it is vital that grieving pet owners can express their feelings at work and elsewhere.

“Other studies have shown 62 percent[1] of owners say having a pet makes them feel happier and that 68 percent[2] of older people feel better both mentally and physically when they live with a dog or cat.  If the companions that support happiness and wellbeing are suddenly no longer around, the negative impacts of loss could be significant.”

The coping mechanism of almost half of pet owners (49 percent) is to get another dog or cat within six months of a pet’s passing.  Another reaction of 42 percent of pet owners is to share their grief in a written tribute to their pet on social media or in a blog.

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