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‘It’s a waking nightmare’: the emotional trauma of pet loss and why we need to take it more seriously

by Shayna Sappington
17th Sep 2020

As incidents of pet thievery increase, owners are experiencing the traumatic loss of their beloved pets

We need to start talking about pet loss and how traumatic it can be for owners, especially for those who heavily rely on pets for companionship.

According to a study, pet loss can cause severe grief, anxiety, emotional distress and even feelings of guilt. 

Dealing with that loss can be particularly difficult when facing daily routines that have become integral to our lives during the pandemic.

Pet thievery

Last month, gardaí warned the public about an increase in pet thievery incidents. 

Purebred dogs along with other costly breeds are being stolen from areas in Dublin, Cork, Kildare, Waterford and Tipperary.

They believe this has to do with the increased demand for pets during the pandemic. Several raids revealed illegally obtained dogs being sold to the highest bidder.

Man’s best friend

One of the most recent victims of dog loss to speak out is an 85-year-old farmer. Mr Garrigan had his best friend, a springer spaniel named Brandy, taken by thieves from his home in Trim, Co Meath.

The day before the dog was taken, there was an attempted break-in at his house and it’s believed that the thieves returned the next night to take Brandy.

He pleaded with the dognappers on Facebook, asking them to return his “loyal comrade and best friend”. 

“These last 10 days my life has been empty without you, Brandy,” he wrote. 

“Brandy was more to me than just a dog; he is my reason to get up in the morning and the reason I felt safe at night. 

“I now spend my days searching high and low for him, so I am asking you to search your heart and help me find him. All that matters is that I get him back.”

The 12-year-old liver and white springer spaniel was taken from the Brannockstown, Co Meath area on July 8, and his owner has asked the thieves to return him with no questions asked. 


Actor Orlando Bloom has also suffered the loss of his pup, Mighty. He recently took to Instagram, asking for fans to help him find the dog.

“The rawness I have felt over these past few days and sleepless nights at the idea of my little man being lost and scared, with me unable to do anything to protect him, is a waking nightmare,” wrote Bloom.

While the Pirates of the Caribbean star didn’t mention the circumstances of Mighty’s disappearance, he did ask his fans to “send out a prayer” for his pet to “find his way back to his family”.

Bloom said he felt “powerless” and urged people to “cherish the moments” shared with loved ones.

“Love is eternal. The bond between Mighty and I shows devotion in ways I have not truly understood until now. 

“I am a devoted father and partner, still, there is a reason why they call him ‘man’s best friend’. I miss him.”

Preventative measures

There has been a call for legislators to make pet-napping a more serious offence. 

Wexford TD James Browne told Beat News that he plans to draft new legislation to give more legal status to dogs and other pets to ensure those who steal them are given tougher sentences.

He said pets are considered property and their theft is punished in the same way as if someone steals any non-living object, such as a mobile phone or a deck chair.

Browne proposed the creation of a new offence called the theft of a companion animal, which would give a more severe punishment to pet thieves.

“We also have an epidemic of loneliness at the moment,” said Browne. “Sometimes these family pets are the only companionship people are receiving.

“[Punishment for pet thieves] should be a recognition of the emotional damage, the emotional trauma, that is inflicted on people by having their beloved pet stolen.” 

Photo: Pexels

Read more: 5 things to know before getting a puppy

Read more: Here are our favourite dog-friendly hotels in Ireland for every budget

Read more: Dogs and cats are not looking forward to the end of lockdown, here’s how to help them adjust

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