Should We Be Allowed Bereavement Leaves For Animal Loss?

Bereavement leave is taken by employees due to the death of another individual, usually a close family member. The time is usually allowed by an employer for employees to grieve, prepare for and attend a funeral, and/or attend to any other immediate post-death matters, such as legal matters tied to wills. But what about our animals? Their loss is as great, particularly since in today's world, we consider our dogs, cats and birds as extensions of our families. Why can't be allotted the same benefit?

Laws for Human Loss

One of the reasons is that leave for human loss isn't universal. Currently, there are no federal laws that require employers to provide employees either paid or unpaid leave. Only one state, Oregon, has passed a law requiring employers to provide bereavement leave (it took effect January 1, 2014). The other 49 states, plus the District of Columbia, do not require employers to provide employees either paid or unpaid bereavement leave.

Companies Addressing the issue . . .

It is rare for companies to offer paid pet bereavement leave. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, San Francisco, is one of few employers that offer a three-day pet bereavement leave. Some units of Mars Inc., the candy and pet-food maker, offer one or more days off, flexible hours, or freedom to work from home after a pet’s death. Palo Alto, Calif.-based software company VMware and Maxwell Health, a provider of an operating system for employee benefits in Boston, both give employees flexible days off to grieve lost pets. Pet insurance company Trupanion, based in Seattle, Wash., gives employees one paid pet bereavement day.

Pet Grief

However in many cases, pet grief is woefully under-acknowledged. It's often referred to glibly in terms of the "rainbow bridge" or too-soon suggestions about a replacement pet.

On the other side of the equation, pet advocates are addressing the growing bond between pet owners and their pets. Charlotte Reed, host of the radio show “The Pet Buzz” in New York City notes that recent news stories about pet leave at time of death is growing in the country.

“I think [pet bereavement leave] is a good idea because the role of pets in our society is changing,” Reed said. “We now rely on technology for our needs—shopping, texting, working from home—and we don’t really have to interact with anyone anymore. People are waiting longer to get married and have children. Pets have filled a physical and emotional void for many people, so when a pet passes, it can be very difficult.”

Millennial point of view . . .

More and more demographics are seeing their furry friends as loved family members rather than owned pets. Millennials are most vested in this issue as determined by this study:

  • 85% of millennials agree that dogs should be treated like a part of the family
  • 53% of millennials agree that companies should offer employees pet-ernity leave (paid leave to spend time with new pets)
  • 46% of millennials think of themselves as a pet parent rather than a pet owner

Celebrities joining in . . .

Most recently pop singers Lorde and Sia expressed themselves with heartfelt candor after losing their beloved dogs. Sia said goodbye to her 16-year-old "best friend" Pantera, and Lorde lost Pearl, a chronically sick pup she adopted last year.

Sia thanked her fans for reinforcing keeping her "sober and alive" as she mourned Pantera's death. And Lorde exclaimed she was feeling the loss of her pup so intensely . . . so much so, it was going to delay the release of her next album.

What do you think, dear reader? Should companies and legislation fight for pet bereavement leave, or is is a bridge too far (no pun intended)?  Please comment below.

Primary Source: The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)