Date of Graduation

Spring 2020


Master of Science in Child Life Studies


Childhood Education and Family Studies

Committee Chair

Denise Cunningham


Studies indicate that there is an affective attachment bond, and related emotional involvement that exists between the companion animal and their human owners. Patient companion-animal death within the veterinary hospital, is a daily occurrence, with death rates per patient being significantly higher than in human health care. This comparatively higher death rate is due to the commonplace utilization of professionally sanctioned euthanasia to relieve animal pain and suffering. Companion animal death, may elicit grief reactions that are identical to what is experienced upon the death of a family member. A void currently exists in family centered veterinary care in terms of grief support of families; particularly the children who are the most vulnerable due to their level of developmental maturity. Study results suggest that there is a need for child life specialist support of children and families who are experiencing the death or imminent death of a companion animal. Although 80 percent of the participants stated familiarity with the role of a child life specialist, 100 percent of all respondents had never used the therapeutic services of this profession or had any specific knowledge of child life specialist support strategies. Despite this lack of experience and familiarity, most respondents demonstrated an understanding of both the necessity for child life specialist intervention and the ramifications of not providing this support to children, contemporaneous with the companion animal loss. The results of this needs assessment did not, however, support the functional benefit of child life services involvement as a facilitator of the reduction of compassion fatigue experienced by veterinary health care professionals.


child life specialist, children, companion animal, death, euthanasia, grief, human animal bond, loss, pet, traumatic, veterinary

Subject Categories

Child Psychology | Developmental Psychology | Development Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Health Communication | Interprofessional Education | Mental and Social Health | Other Mental and Social Health | Pediatrics | Therapeutics | Trauma


© Jared R. Negin-Fryers

Open Access