By Miranda Prynne
For many it is as devastating as losing a family member but for criminals it is simply an easy way to make a quick buck.
Reports of dog-napping have soared by nearly a fifth across the country in the past year.
Leading dog theft charity, DogLost, had dealt with about 10,880 cases this year with still a month to go – a rise of 19 per cent compared to the 9,170 cases in 2012.
The charity estimates that about a third of all the dogs which go missing are stolen.
This year’s worrying increase has followed a rise in dog thefts of about 17 per cent on the previous 12 months although exact figures for stolen dogs are very hard to find because the police categorize such crimes as ‘property theft’.
Experts say there are a wide variety of reasons why dogs are targeted.
Trained working dogs such as Labradors are popular with thieves who use them for shooting and poaching as well as breeds which can be used for illegal coursing and hunting such as lurchers.
Certain terrier breeds are targeted for use in fighting and ‘handbag’ dogs such as Chihuahuas made famous by celebrities such as Paris Hilton are stolen for their high sales value.
The award-winning actress Sheridan Smith’s Shar Pei, Enid, has been stolen from her home in Crouch End, north London, twice but was returned on both occasions after she made public appeals.
Experts say the problem has worsened since the economic downturn and the rise of the internet which makes the sourcing and illegal trading in dogs easier. More....