Last week Aontú leader Peadar Toíbín launched a Bill, co-signed by Galway East Independent TD Seán Canney, to introduce a minimum 10 month sentence for any person convicted of stealing a family pet. Unfortunately this appears to have been a bit of a growth industry over the last months, partly due to gangs whose normal forte is house breaking changing their modus operandi to the lucrative and relatively less risky taking of dogs.

The increase in the number of dogs being stolen is also due to the large increase in prices being paid, and I’ve heard that €1,200 has changed hands for a pup of a currently fashionable breed. Reported thefts are well up on other years by all accounts.

The increase in prices for pups is driven by a demand based on people having more time to spend with pets, and of course there are no better companions when you are forced to spend more time confined to quarters. Personally I would guess that I have spent at least 80% of my time over the past seven months in their company, and yes that includes them mostly occupying the greater part of the bed. Barney Grant the Yorkie occasionally takes it upon himself to do some typing on unattended keyboards. Himself and the Westie old girl are in their cantankerous declining years, so we get on famously.

There are people who do not care much for dogs, or cats for that matter, so probably look somewhat askance at Aontú’s proposal. If you do have such a furry chum, then it makes perfect sense as taking them is akin to removing a member of the family. As indeed anyone of us who have lost a dog or a cat or any other pet to death or otherwise will testify.

Which begs the question as to what status animals occupy in creation. Pope Francis attracted some criticism in 2014 when he told a small boy that he would be re-united some day with his dog who had died. St. Thomas Aquinas stated in the Summa Theologica that animals have souls but not immortal ones and that their lives end with mortal death.

In one of the legendary debates between St. Patrick and Óisín of Na Fianna, the saint apparently told Óisín that his hounds would be resurrected. Eriugena the 9th century Irish philosopher in his book Periphyseon seemed to believe that all of creation would be reunited with the Creator: “There is no creature that cannot be understood to be in man,” and therefore would experience the same fate.

And as animals like humans are part of God’s essence then they will return to their creator. While some argued that animals could not share in the Creator’s essence because they were irrational, Eriugena claimed that “irrationality may be changed to rationality.” This is what happens when you discuss such matters with our dog friends!

All of that aside, hopefully the Bill will get wider support and be passed into legislation. It might prove to be some deterrent to those who steal family pets, or at the least impose some meaningful penalty on anyone convicted of so doing.