Pet owners fear that dognappers may be operating across Lancashire after a number of pets have mysteriously gone missing in recent weeks.
The RSPCA believes that the rise in dog thefts could be down to a surge in popularity of so-called designer breeds and “fashionable” crossbreeds.
The animal charity added that demand for dogs has gone through the roof since the first lockdown as families have found themselves at home with more time on their hands.
Many households have decided to add a new dog to their family meaning that responsible breeders and rescue centres in the UK, who have been working hard to adapt to the Government’s changing guidelines, have been struggling to meet demand.
An RSPCA spokesperson said: “It’s really concerning to see how many dogs are being stolen each year and we’d urge anyone who believed their pooch has been taken to report the incident to police immediately.
“As an animal welfare charity the RSPCA doesn’t deal directly with pet theft – leaving criminal matters such as this to the expertise of police – but we believe the rise in dognapping could be as a result of the surging popularity, and value, of certain ‘designer’ breeds and fashionable crossbreeds.
“We’d urge all dog owners to take extra precautions to protect their pets from thieves by neutering them, ensuring they are microchipped with up-to-date contact details registered, ensuring they wear a collar with contact details embroidered or an engraved ID tag. We’d also advise that owners never leave their pets tied up outside shops or alone in cars, ensure their gardens are secure with gates locked, and ensure their pet has a good recall and doesn’t stray too far when off-lead on walks.
“Anyone who suspects their dog may have been stolen should immediately alert police, contact their microchip company to register their pet as stolen and inform local rescue groups, vets, dog walkers and neighbours.”
Several dog owners have been in touch with LancsLive to appeal for help to find their missing pooches.
Just last week a Lytham dog owner was unable to eat or sleep after her 16-month dog went missing.
Hector, the American Bulldog puppy, was bought as a present for Sylwia Bouhitem last Christmas by her 43-year-old boyfriend David Hudson.
Hector and his brother Igor went missing from Sylwia’s Lytham home on Sunday (December 27) after a friend left the front gate open, allowing the two bulldogs to race onto the street.
Sylwia says however that Hector is friendly and enjoys spending times in cars therefore may have been taken my a stranger.
She is convinced that pure breed Hector has been taken from her as the 16-month-old is unlikely to have wandered off, as he is not keen on walks, and rarely leaves fellow bulldog Igor’s side.
In the summer, two dogs were reported as stolen from separate homes in the same week.
Bonnie the pug was been reportedly stolen after she escaped from her home in Accrington on Friday, June 26.
Despite two alleged sightings of the dog, she has still not been found, and it is suspected that a thief may have picked her up and taken her.
Three days later on July 29, Emma received what she thinks may been a hoax phonecall from a man telling her her he had ran her dog over and that he was leaving country. He also made kissing noises down the phone and told her the dog was beautiful.
Dray, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was also taken from his home in Burnley on Thursday July 2 or Friday July 3 whilst the owner was away from her property overnight.
As of today, residents in South Ribble warned on social media not to advertise pets for free or leave them outside shops unattended to try and combat the amount of pets going missing.
Lancs Live has contacted Lancashire police for a statement.