Research has shown that the human grieving process following a pet's death is similar to that experienced by people who have lost a family member or close friend. Telephone helplines and support groups have been used for some time to address grief associated with the end of human-human interrelationships, but have only recently emerged as a means of assisting pet owners in dealing with the death of their companion animals. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recognizes the benefits of pet loss support helplines and groups for pet owners, veterinarians, veterinary technicians, students and faculty at colleges of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology, and lay employees of veterinary practices, and encourages their responsible establishment.
The Internet has also attracted considerable attention as a new medium for delivery of pet loss support. Although it may serve as a source of information for grieving pet owners, it has unique characteristics that make it a more limited and risky medium for delivery of counseling services.
Pet loss support helplines also provide education for volunteers in the social service aspects of veterinary medical practice associated with companion animal loss, grief, and bereavement. Colleges of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology will find that helplines benefit students by providing them with real-life examples of the depth and implications of the human-animal bond. Veterinary organizations, practices, and hospitals hosting or contributing to pet loss support helplines benefit from skills learned by their members or employees and from positive public response engendered by these helplines.
Establishing pet loss support groups also benefits the veterinary profession by communicating its concern for grieving clients and by increasing the effectiveness of veterinary hospitals and clinics in dealing with emotionally distraught clients.