Pets win prizes in battle for attention

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The Independent Online
The British will go to any lengths for their pets, be it arranging a funeral, leaving them millions or giving them a go on the lottery, writes Clare Garner.

The Church of England conducts thanksgiving services for animals, but this week saw the first one inspired by a single pet, for Bill, a monkey that belonged to Sam and Shirley Bruce, from Co Durham."I didn't want him to go away in a cardboard box or a bin-liner. I wanted him to go away like a human being," Mrs Bruce said.

Pets often take priority over work and partners. A survey found that

73 per cent of dog owners had taken time off work because the pet was ill; 84 per cent said they would rather have their toes licked by their pet than their partner.

Humans also make it their business to give animals a good time. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals could give only one explanation for why the pigeons in Maidstone, Kent, were staggering around after a Remembrance Day parade. "It seems someone had actually gone to the length of soaking bird feed in alcohol and leaving it outside nightclubs," an official said.

Lorraine and Ian Foster, of Skegness, let their budgie, Charlie, pick lottery numbers. He has won three consecutive prizes of pounds 10 and can chirp: "Win the lottery, Charlie bird, win the lot."

When it comes to wills, pets are often in the money. Last year Whisp, a Border terrier, was pounds 50,000 richer on the death of its master, John Jones, who said that after the death of his wife, Whisp had become the most important thing in his life.

Finally, a survey by Southampton University showed that men turn to their cats for emotional support but are ashamed to talk about it. They like to think of pets as playmates, not confidants, said John Bradshaw, head of the University's Anthrozoology Institute.

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