DOG snatchers are targeting homes and gardens to steal beloved pets from right under the noses of owners.
New shock figures from police reveal how nearly half of all dogs stolen are being grabbed by burglars targeting dwellings and gardens.
A high proportion of the stolen pets are so-called “handbag” breeds – French bulldogs, pugs, shih-tzus and Chihuahuas – made famous by celebrities.
The worrying trend in stealing pets from inside their homes comes as police forces across the nation reveal there has been a fourth annual rise in dog thefts.
Figures obtained by leading pet charity Blue Cross under the Freedom of Information reveals dog theft crimes rose by a third in 2015 compared to the previous year.
Yet it is the way criminals are cashing in the black market value of pets – or possibly using animals as bait for dog fighting – that will shock animal lovers.
While most dog owners believe dog thefts invariably happen when pets are being walked in public places, the evidence from police statistics paints are a more sinister picture of criminal enterprise.
At least 1,797 dogs were stolen in 2015 compared to 1,333 in 2014, with 803 animals grabbed from their owners’ properties.
FOI data shows 426 animals were inside their dwellings when they were taken, while the other animals vanished from gardens.
Blue Cross says police statistics also show that in 2015 and 2016 there have been 54 thefts of French bulldogs, 70 pugs stolen, 51 shih-tzus and 103 Chihuahuas.
An opinion poll conducted by Blue Cross found almost four out of five pet owners believe pets are being taken to be sold, while others fear the stolen animals are being used for forced breeding or for dog-fighting practice.
When asked, the vast majority agreed with the following poll statement: “I think criminals who steal pets should face harsher penalties than thieves who steal property such as a mobile phone, computer or bicycle.”
The value of pets and the heartbreak their theft creates for families is unbearable.
Tricia Scott says it was like suffering a bereavement when poodle-cross Sherbert was stolen from her garden in Newport, Gwent, in October 2015.
“I can honestly say it’s like I have lost a child,” she says. “My boys are distraught.
“The only thing that has kept us going has been the support from people.
“It is getting harder as the weeks are going on not knowing if he is being cared for and is happy.”
Another victim of dog theft victim reveals the impact that it has on the entire family.
Linsey Thomas’s French bulldog puppy called Betty was stolen from the garden last month.
She described the impact on her daughter Daisy: “Betty was stolen just before Daisy’s seventh birthday. She has been the most affected by this and refused to have a party or any birthday presents as she just wanted her puppy back. It’s been tough for us all but Daisy is devastated.”
Distraught pet owners who have suffered a dog theft regularly get in contact with the Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS), seeking solace and advice.
The service receives more than 8,000 calls a year and not all from pet owners whose animals have died.
PBSS’ Diane James said: “We take many calls from owners who are missing their pet, including when a pet has been stolen.
“We offer support for those struggling to cope with the loss of their pet and give advice to help their children, who can be particularly upset and confused by the loss of their beloved family member.”
Daily Express article:- http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/743396/dog-pets-burglars-target-homes-gardens-nightmare