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Saying goodbye and breaking the taboo

Nearly half of UK households own a pet, showing the importance companion animals play in our lives.

For millions of people, life with a pet will be a long-lasting relationship, but for others, the story will be a different one as they are forced to separate from their pets for whatever reason.

While it’s a subject many won’t want to think about, let alone discuss, NAWT takes a very different view thanks to its partnership with ALLY.

Likened to specialist support services such as Macmillan or Marie Curie nurses, ALLY is there to support people experiencing pet loss, whether that loss is as a result of euthanasia, natural death, theft, being lost or relinquishment.

Five NAWT centres have fully qualified ALLY-trained staff available to talk to owners undergoing a loss. The majority of their work focuses on supporting people going through the pet relinquishment process.

Studies into how and why people relinquish animals are hard to find. Anecdotally, NAWT centres find most people calling them have to give up their pets due to a change in circumstances.

It might be a new job or baby, a house move or the onset of illness that prompts people to get in touch.

Some may have bought a pet and later discovered they cannot fully care for the animal or that the animal is unsuited to their lifestyle.

Through their ALLY training, NAWT staff are able to offer support that is non-judgmental and supportive. As a result they are able to build a much fuller picture as to how and why the animal is being rehomed as well as how the person and their family are coping emotionally.

Caron Lane, NAWT Somerset Centre Manager and lead ALLY co-ordinator at NAWT, explains: “The very fact someone has called us is wonderful as they are making a responsible decision to do what’s right by their animal, even if they have to wait for a vacancy at the rescue centre to come up.”

Caron cites a recent example of a man with a Labrador. The charity had already helped his daughter relinquish her dog and he had come to the reluctant conclusion that he had to do the same with his own pet.

Although there was a waiting list at the time, Caron was able to support him in waiting until they were able to take his dog. With few friends able to understand the predicament he faced, the man really appreciated the support NAWT was able to offer.  

“So many unwanted pets end up on places like Gumtree or Facebook where there is no guarantee for their safety. If we can offer a helpful ear then we hope they will choose us; as we care and will do our best for their pet.”

This is a fundamental part of the training as ALLY founder Ali Samuels explains: “TV programmes such as Supervet show that more treatments could possibly be offered to save our pets.

“Animals appear in countless adverts and pets are often valued as important family members and can be a huge part of our daily lives.

“So when circumstances change it is little surprise to see, how the loss of a pet may cause their owners such emotional upset and turmoil.

Inevitably providing such a sensitive service makes it hard to collate data, but the feedback from those using the service has been positive.

Some people have given generous donations to the centres, while others have recommended the service to their friends and family. If it is helping to break down the taboo of giving up a pet, then that has to be a good thing for both human and animal.

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