Concerns over 'dognappers' targeting dog walkers in Sussex

THERE is growing concern among pet owners as reports emerge of “dognappers” targeting people in Sussex. Several dogwalkers in Patcham, Storrington and Billingshurst claim to have been followed by men in a “pick up truck” in an attempt to steal their pets. One Facebook user claimed that a man jumped out of the vehicle with a “dog lead” in his hand.

Sussex Police said it is aware of the social media posts but that reports of dog theft remains low in Sussex. In a separate incident, three English Springer Spaniels were taken from a Brightling near Hastings in May last year. While a beloved cockapoo named Bertie went missing from his home in Rottingdean in April 2020 and has yet to be found.

The RSCPA believe the rise in dognapping and attempted thefts could be a result of the surging popularity, and value, of certain “designer” breeds and “fashionable crossbreeds”. The charity said that the demand for puppies has gone through the roof since the first lockdown in March 2020. Bertie went missing from his home in Rottingdean in April last year.

Families have found themselves at home with more time on their hands, 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. A spokesman from the charity 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. “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.”

A spokeswoman from Sussex Police said it has a dedicated Rural Crime Team who work closely with the RSPCA and Trading Standards to tackle issues such as dog theft and puppy farming.

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