DISTRAUGHT dog owners are turning to bereavement counsellors to help them cope when their pets are stolen or go missing. The ordeal of effectively losing a beloved member of the family is proving so traumatic owners struggle to return to their daily lives.
More than 60 dogs are stolen each week in the UK. Of 1,678 cases reported in 2017, only two percent of dog-nappers were charged, according to police figures.
Diane James, 51, of animal charity Blue Cross, has volunteers to help owners with free 45-minute sessions and says she receives 13,000 calls and emails a year from people needing help.
She said: “Some people call and simply cry for the whole time they’re on the phone as they’re at such a low ebb. There is no closure, no body. We also experience guilt. Quite innocently, the dog may have been in the car or garden or the owner left the door open and they ran away or were taken. We try to normalise how they’re feeling and help them deal with self blame. As a pet owner, I completely understand their heartache.”
Georgie Bell was so bereft when her border terriers Ruby, five, and her daughter Beetle, two, went missing that she poured her anguish out to a therapist.
The dogs were on a hunt on the estate where Georgie lives with gamekeeper husband Ed, 41, and their three children in Jedburgh on the Scottish Borders, when they simply vanished.
Georgie, 45, has spent months searching wells, rabbit holes and mineshafts, launched a social media campaign and crowdfunded £5,000 as a reward for finding the pair.
Georgie, mother to Tom, 15, Felicity, 14, and Frances, 12, said: “I can’t stop thinking of them day and night. I’m glued to my phone and computer. I know they’ve been stolen. So many people are trying to help and I feel I have to be at my screen answering every message.
“We’ve put posters everywhere, organised walks all over the country, been to the vets and registered on doglost.co.uk. It’s tearing our family apart.”
“The children are heartbroken. Frances had her birthday and asked for the dogs to come home as her present. What do you say to that? Ed is frantic too but he’s tried to tell me gently that it’s taking over my life. Speaking to someone outside of family and friends has helped so much.”
Daniel Allen, from the Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance fears pet theft figures are actually much higher than figures show because many are not registered as pet theft.
He said: “They’re often filed as robbery or burglary. This means we have no idea of the true extent of the crime.”