A NATIONAL hotline has been set-up to connect people who have lost their pet with a trained counsellor who can help a person better cope with their loss.
The service founder, People and Pets Veterinary Services’ Dr Michael O’Donoghue, believes grief associated with the loss of a pet is often misunderstood.
He has found that people can grieve deeply the loss of their pet and for a long time.
“Pet loss and grief is almost an unknown or unrecognised factor in society,” he said.
“I think some people really get it and others just don’t get how people grieve intensely about their pets.
“Often they are very close companions.
“They can spend 24 hours a day with us and we become extremely well-attached to them.
“When they die, there can be a huge hole in your life and you don’t get the same kind of support you would if a close family member died.”
In comparison Dr O’Donoghue uses the example of the loss of a family member where a person can grieve openly, often in the supportive company of relatives and friends.
“With a pet you don’t have the same opportunity and people really don’t get that kind of bond that you have with your pet,” he added.
“If you are living at home, you are so much more dependent on your pet.
“They become a huge part of your life; your reason to get up in the morning to walk and feed the dog.
“If your social network is limited, you really rely on a pet.”
People can call the Pets and People Loss Counselling hotline, 1300 431 450, 24 hours a day and talk to a specialised pet loss counsellor about the loss of any kind of companion animal.
Calls are answered by a receptionist, and if in working hours, it may be transferred to a counsellor.
If a counsellor isn’t available, a message is sent to one and the counsellor will get back to the person within 24 hours.
Currently there are 10 service counsellors based across Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
“They are all professional counsellors so they charge a service fee which ranges from $50 to $80 per hour,” Dr O’Donoghue said.
“We also have some psychologists on board and they may be up to $200 per hour.
“You can get a referral from your GP and you can claim the cost of that (service) through Medicare or sometimes through private health insurance.”
Dr O’Donoghue said a person can also set up a face-to-face meeting with one of these counsellors.
For more information on the service and helpful tips on managing pet loss grief, go to www.petsandpeople.com.au