The Rainbow Bridge: Imagining ‘Animal Heaven’

  • Andrew Dean University of Sunderland


The increased integration of animals into family life has raised acute eschatological concerns about what future, if any, awaits pets in the afterlife. With little known about this religious issue, this ethnographic study explores pet communities mitigating bereavement through embracing eschatological innovation and imagining ‘animal heaven’, i.e., the Rainbow Bridge. Although imagination is often considered unreal, this study ruminates on imagination being a supernatural sense, allowing the bereaved to perceive their deceased pets in the afterlife. Key findings show that the Rainbow Bridge has three core functions, including, (1) providing a temporary pet paradise, (2) preparing pets for the real Heaven, and (3) reducing human bereavement. Finally, as an emerging religion, the Rainbow Bridge is a mixture of semi-systematised beliefs, being further imagined each day.