As pet owners, our closest four-legged companions will always be beloved members of our family. And for many of us, our pets are fundamental to our mental and physical well-being.
We all know that by having pets, we will one day have to say goodbye to them. However when the day comes for our pet to cross the Rainbow Bridge, the loss can result in considerable trauma to our mind, body, and soul.
The loss of a cherished pet has a profound effect on our everyday lives. Considering humans are creatures of habit, losing a pet forever alters our daily routine, leaving a void that can be difficult, if not impossible, to fill. More importantly, the deeply-rooted psychological impact stemming from pet loss can be absolutely devastating.
The grieving process for someone who has lost a pet is often comparable to losing a close human friend or family member. In fact, many psychological researchers believe there is no emotional difference in how we grieve the loss of pets versus humans. Many pets live for 15 years or more, developing intimate and enduring bonds with their human caretakers over that time.
There’s no denying that losing a pet can be crushing, so why are we expected to immediately go back to our place of work as if nothing happened? In Ontario, employees are permitted to miss work without repercussions for illness, injury, or a death in the family. Deaths can include immediate family members, as well as parents, step-parents, foster children, grandchildren, sons or daughters-in-law, and more.
To date, the law doesn’t include pets.
Currently, it is up to the employer to determine whether they will permit unscheduled leave for loss of a pet, and companies are well within their legal right to deny time off. While certain employers may have more supportive policies in place on this matter, it’s not considered common in the workplace.
It can be difficult, if not impossible, for pet owners to maintain their focus after losing a pet. Staying on task, conversing with co-workers, dealing with clients, and simply maintaining composure can be oppressively heavy. To make matters worse, many workers report bosses or coworkers treating them as being overly dramatic when needing time to mourn the loss of their pet.
As the role of pets in our modern society continues to evolve, perhaps now is time for employers and government bodies to reconsider regulations to include protections for individuals suffering from the loss of a pet. With more awareness being brought to this matter, hopefully it helps to encourage employers to take pet loss more seriously, and work towards providing their employees with the mental health support they need during times of psychological distress.
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.