Although I didn’t take PTO or sick leave for my dog, I seriously considered it earlier this week. One of my girls was feeling under the weather. And it made me wonder how many people take sick leave for their dogs. After all, if we consider them family members as most of us do, why shouldn’t we?
The U.S. Department of Commerce would probably not be supportive. Their definition of “family member” includes spouses, children, spouse’s parents, parents, brothers, sisters and their spouses and “anyone related by blood or affinity whose close relationship with the employee’s the equivalent of a family member.”
Do you think your dog should be included in that definition? As I struggled with the question as to whether to take time off for my sick dog, I realized how torn I was. My dogs are dependent on me and when they are ill, it is my responsibility to nurse and care for them.
A Revealing Study
A new study in the UK showed that 81% of Britain’s owners would risk their jobs and call in sick if Fido was feeling unwell. What was revealing in this study was that only 69% of people would call in sick if they themselves were feeling ill!
Property, Custody and Visitation
It also made me think about dogs during divorce and the evolving body of law concerning custody of pets and the division of marital property. After all, most people consider their dog a family member and when they are not well and are at home alone it is difficult to concentrate. Courts have been involved in “custody” and “visitation” rights.
Courts have been involved in “custody” and “visitation” rights. But though you may feel strongly that your dog is a “family member” the bottom line is that most courts will consider them “property.” Typically, if your dog is wrongly killed or harmed, most courts will only award “fair market value.”
Change Is Hard
Both of these thoughts highlight the changes, relatively recent changes actually, in the way that we think about our pets. Jon Katz writes eloquently about these changes in “The New Work Of Dogs: Tending To Life, Love and Family.” Katz portrays a number of dogs and owners whom he has come to know in his neighborhood, a rather upscale suburb in New Jersey. He wonders at one point about the toll on our dog’s psyche that fulfilling the role of primary companion and friend may be taking. Previous jobs that dogs have had are no long available to them. There is not much need for sled dogs, and though dogs are still used in herding, most herding dogs are unemployed. If dogs evolved to fulfill the needs of hunters and shepherds, dogs may be evolving in some ways now to fulfill the emotional needs of a society that is becoming more fragmented.
I wonder what these changes might be. Do you have any stories about custody battles or shared custody arrangements concerning dogs? Have you ever called in sick because your dog had to go to the vet or was ill? What changes do you think we might see in our dogs because of their new jobs providing emotional support as our best buddies and companions?