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VIOLENT KITTAIN; pets AND THEIR people Cat thefts at a high Dogs held to ransom Killed in sick games.

Byline: By JESSICA BOULTON

TENS of thousands of cats and dogs were stolen last year as pet crime in Britain hits a new high.

Owners are terrified to let animals out of sight as they are:

SNATCHEDto order and sold on the black market.

KIDNAPPED and ransomed back to their owners.

TARGETED by teen gangs as an initiation test and used as weapons.

KILLED in vile hoodie games.

Margaret Nawrockyi, of Dog Theft Action said: "All pets have a resale value like a car stereo, TV or sat nav. We have to protect them."

Pets are stolen by professional thieves who use them for breeding or opportunists who want a quick sale to settle a debt or fund a drug habit.

Margaret said: "I was in the garden when my dog was snatched by professional thieves. I have never got over it. It's devastating."

Pedigree cats such as pounds 500 Bengals are top of thieves' wishlist. Other at-risk breeds include Burmese, Persian and Siamese, says the study by Sainsbury's.

Fighting dogs such as Staffordshire bullterriers and rottweilers are stolen to order for use by hoodie gangs. Springer spaniels, border terriers and labradors are also in demand.

Some animals are snatched so they can be tortured and filmed on thugs' mobiles.

There has been a worrying rise in the theft of working dogs and guide dogs which can fetch pounds 2,000 ransoms as owners are desperate for their return. And "revenge" thefts by spiteful ex-partners or neighbours are also on the increase.

Margaret added: "We cannot tell the true level of the problem or why some of these dogs are being taken, especially the working dogs.

"But we all need to work together to stop this crime."

And Rupert Honywood, founder of Missing Pets Bureau, said: "The increase in thefts is something all pet owners should be aware of.

"We cannot know the exact numbers but it is a concern."

The charities offer the following tips to protect your pet:

MAKE sure you get it microchipped by a vet.

VARY your walk times and routes.

DON'T give details about your pet or allow strangers to have their photograph taken with them.

NEVER put a value on any reward for a missing pet's return, as it can leave you open to ransom demands.

FIT an alarm or bell to your gate.

jessica.boulton@people.co.uk
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Apr 20, 2008
Words:395
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