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“Too hot to handle”: Making lost and stolen pets present in virtual space

Arathoon, Jamie; Allen, Daniel; Hallatt, Alicia


Jamie Arathoon

Alicia Hallatt


Pets are socially, culturally, emotionally, and economically entangled in human lives. For humans, pets are loved, and the bond between human and pet extends beyond companionship to incorporate emotional and mental health benefits. Pet theft is a crime that exploits these emotional relationships with pets being stolen for ransom, reward, resale, and breeding. In this paper we explore the emotional geographies of online search/ing for missing and stolen pets. To do so, we utilise interviews with people whose dogs are stolen and have not returned, those whose dogs have been reunited, and with groups dedicated to reuniting missing and stolen pets. We also make use of posts from 20 Twitter/X1 accounts dedicated to missing and stolen pets. In sharing posts online, humans utilise several search tactics. First, posts are shared with the idea of making pets "too hot to handle". This involves using images and hashtags to "go viral". Second, the posts are imbued with emotions, detailing the difficulties of losing a pet. Third, the use of images and descriptions of the pets' charismatic qualities and characteristics are used to make their pets present online. The findings here have relevance to literature on absence and presence, emotional and digital geographies of human-animal relations, and online identity-making. The paper also provides practical insights into (in)effective strategies of online searching, which can inform public engagement practices of lost and stolen animal support groups and individuals looking to make lost and stolen pets present in virtual space.


Arathoon, J., Allen, D., & Hallatt, A. (2024). “Too hot to handle”: Making lost and stolen pets present in virtual space. Geoforum, 152, Article 104013.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 22, 2024
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2024
Publication Date 2024-06
Deposit Date Jul 2, 2024
Journal Geoforum
Print ISSN 0016-7185
Electronic ISSN 1872-9398
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 152
Article Number 104013
Keywords Animal geographies; Crime; Human-animal relations; Lost; Pets; Virtual space
Public URL
Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: “Too hot to handle”: Making lost and stolen pets present in virtual space; Journal Title: Geoforum; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: © 2024 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.