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Should Employers Offer Paid Pet Bereavement Leave?


According to a 2015 Harris poll, almost all (95%) U.S. pet owners consider their pet to be a member of their family.  Anyone who has lost a pet knows, the death of a pet can feel as painful as the loss of any other member of the family.  While not mandated by federal or state laws, some companies are beginning to offer their employees paid time off to grieve after a pet dies.

This subject has been stirring quite a bit of controversy among non-pet owners who do not understand the bond between humans and their pets.  Thoughtless people tend to treat grief, following the loss of a pet, as it’s not real or life changing.  For many of us, our pets are very much a part of our families as the human ones are. Grief from the loss of a pet involves the same emotions as any other death of a loved one, including disbelief, anger and guilt.

Should we be allowed to take a few days to recover from a devastating, life-altering loss?   Of course.  Grief is grief, whether it’s caused by the loss of a human or the loss of a pet.  Personally, I’ve never felt such heart-wrenching pain as after the loss of my beloved dogs.  After each loss, I certainly felt like a part of myself, and a member of my family had died. It took me years after each loss before I could look back at my fur-babies and feel peace versus anger and sadness.

I think it’s commendable that companies are beginning to offer paid pet bereavement leave.  Where do they draw the line though? Is the loss of a hamster any less than the loss of a dog? Will these companies view the passing of a goldfish in the same manner as a cat?  My fear is that this benefit will quickly be taken advantage of which will not benefit employees and employers as it is intended.

Several years ago I had met with my boss to request time out of the office as I had to euthanize my dog who was beginning to succumb to cancer. After much hesitation, i was granted one day.  One day and one day only as “it’s only a dog”.  

Many of us have banked sick, vacation and/or personal time that we’d be happy to use while we grieve.  I would have been happy to have been granted a few days even if it meant non-paid leave.  When you tell me “it’s only a dog” as I’m already in an emotional whirlwind, my level of productivity plummets even lower and my anger is elevated.  What I would appreciate more than paid pet bereavement days would simply be understanding and compassion in the face of such a devastating loss. As society continues to change the way it views the role of pets in the family, we also need to change our reaction to those grieving the loss of a pet.

What do you think of paid pet bereavement leave?

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