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PETS AND THEIR PEOPLE: DoGNdpEd; BOOM IN SNATCHED PET CRIME.

Byline: By BRITT COLLINS

THOUSANDS of valuable dogs are being held to ransom in a crime that is causing misery for pet lovers.

Evil dognappers are demanding an average pounds 2,000 to give the pets back. But in one case, the devoted owners handed over an incredible pounds 20,000.

Last year insurance companies paid out for 40,000 stolen dogs. The crime has become so serious that websites are springing up dedicated to reuniting pets with their owners.

Jayne Haynes, who set up www.doglost.co.uk after her own bulldog went missing, said: "When we started three years ago, we got a handful of calls - now the phone rings every day.

"I've heard of people paying pounds 20,000 or remortgaging their homes for their pet. One couple in the Midlands recently paid pounds 2,500 to get their dog back.

"They had to go to a field in the night, leave a plastic bag full of money and go home and wait for a phone call."

In some cases, the dognappers are drug addicts who are after quick cash to fund their habits.

Others are in organised gangs who are stealing champion dogs - which can be worth up to pounds 50,000 to order. Thieves are even selling animals on the black market for illegal fights.

One owner desperate to be reunited with her dog is model Daisy Kearey, 21, from London. She is offering a pounds 1,000 reward for Staffordshire bull terrier Max who was snatched from her garden in April. She said: "I'm crushed. I've had Max for three years since he was a week old so we were very close.

"But I've been getting all sorts of disgusting messages. One guy called me and said, 'I have your dog, I chopped him up and cremated him'."

Fighting back tears, Daisy added: "I love him more than anything in this world and I'll do anything to get him back."

HOW YOU CAN BEAT THEM...

1MAKE sure there are tags on your pet's collar with your name and phone number.

2MICROCHIP your pet. It's a painless, quick and inexpensive procedure.

3TRY to keep your dog on a lead in parks andpublic places. Or at least keep them in sight - thieves need just a few seconds to pounce. NEVERleave your dog outside a shop or

4 5 alone in a garden. THINK twice before you offer a big reward. It's simply giving in to extortion and will encourage the kidnappers to do it again.

TOP TARGETS

STAFFIE

Worth pounds 300LURCHER

Worth pounds 200

SPANIEL

Worth pounds 300BULLDOG

Worth pounds 1,000

SHIH-TZU

Worth pounds 900

LABRADOR

Worth pounds 600

CAPTION(S):

ANGUISH: Daisy is offering pounds 1,000 for Max's return
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Aug 7, 2005
Words:456
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