Seton Hill University’s Center for Family Therapy in downtown Greensburg, Pa. will begin offering a free support group for individuals of all ages suffering the loss of a pet. The Pet Loss Support Group will meet on the second Tuesday of each month, beginning on December 11, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the Center, located at 41 West Otterman Street, in Greensburg, Pa. For more information, call 724-552-0339.

According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63 percent of households in the United States own a pet. Because the life span of pets in general is short, all of these owners will eventually face the death of their beloved companion animal. Research completed by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) 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. However, addressing grief associated with the loss of a companion animal can be more difficult than addressing the grief associated with the end of human-human relationships because there are presently no universally accepted social mechanisms or rituals to facilitate resolution of a pet owner’s grief. The Seton Hill University Center for Family Therapy’s Pet Loss Support Group was founded with the help of Hank Croft, Jr., VMD, owner and CEO of the Loyalhanna Veterinary Clinic, Inc. in Stahlstown, Pa. and through a grant from the R. K. Mellon Family Foundation. Director of Clinical Social Work Services and Pet Bereavement Services at the Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Christina Bach, MSW, helped launch the new support group with two workshops in November 2007: “Pet Loss and Its Impact on the Family System” for therapists, faculty and students of Seton Hill’s graduate program in Marriage and Family Therapy; and a presentation for local veterinarians, veterinary staff, kennel personnel and pet groomers.