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Animal bereavement helplines have reported a big increase in calls during the coronavirus pandemic, charities have said, as it emerged that comedian and actor Miranda Hart was taking time off to grieve the loss of her beloved dog Peggy.
The Blue Cross animal charity and Cats Protection, a UK charity dedicated to rescuing and rehoming stray cats, said they had received a growing number of calls from people unable to be with their dying pets because of social-distancing rules that mean vets have to euthanise a cat or dog alone.
The reports come as Hart shone a light on the heartache many people experience when a pet dies, after she said she would be taking time off work in the wake of losing her dog, Peggy.
Animal charities and pet bereavement counsellors said that most companies do not offer time off work to an employee when their pet dies and there is no legal requirement for them to do so. However, they said there is a growing awareness around being sympathetic in such situations.
Diane James, who manages the Blue Cross pet bereavement support service, said the number of people contacting them had increased from a few thousand five years ago to 14,200 last year. She noted there was a 38% rise in calls during December when compared with the previous year.
“I think that is a time when people feel lonely and realise loss [over Christmas]. They need support more around those times,” she said.
“It has been a tough old year because when a lot of animals are euthanased their owners have not been there because of the pandemic … We get people ringing saying their only companion is now gone. Also, it is different now pet crematoriums are not running as normal,” she said.
James said a handful of employers offer compassionate leave, usually unpaid, if someone tells them a pet has died.
“Compassionate unpaid leave is the best option but more important is understanding how the loss of a pet affects an employee and directing people to services that offer support.”
Pet bereavement support counsellor, Dawn Murray, said that in her two decades of working in the industry she has seen a rise in its growth as companies realised the impact losing a dog or cat can have on an employee. “We are making progress in that direction but I don’t know if it will ever be a law to allow someone time off,” she added.
She said she received a 20% rise in calls last year. “With pet bereavement, a lot of people don’t require to be counselled but want extra support and reassurance that they are not going mad. I can address a lot of people’s concerns.”
Catherine Joyce, leader of the “Paws to Listen” team at Cats Protection, said that at the beginning of the lockdown they had a rise in reports of cats getting involved in road traffic accidents, because of people driving more recklessly and also there being fewer cars on the roads, which led to cats roaming into unfamiliar territories.
“But the main thing we are hearing is that people cannot be with cats when they die, which is really sad … It is horrific for people who have to leave a cat carrier at the door and then pick it up later.”
Source: The Guardian
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