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Thieves target man's best friends

PUBLISHED: 08:25 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 October 2010

Bella and Ella are just the sort of loveable four-legged friends any family would dote on.

But both animals have become victims of separate dog-nappings in Norfolk during the past week, and last night experts warned that the number of canine thefts was rising sharply.

Bella and Ella are just the sort of loveable four-legged friends any family would dote on.

But both animals have become victims of separate dog-nappings in Norfolk during the past week, and last night experts warned that the number of canine thefts was rising sharply.

A new report by the Missing Pets Bureau reveals that about 50,000 dogs were stolen in Britain last year - up 141pc on the previous 12 months.

And while no specific figures have been produced, this region has one of the highest numbers of animal thefts - a fact that has prompted police and animal welfare groups to urge people to remain vigilant and take precautions such as using ID tags.

In one of the latest incidents, Ella, a friendly border terrier was bundled into a car from just outside her family home at Ickburgh, near Mundford, last Friday and is still missing.

Bella was stolen with her brother and sister from her owner's garden at Gaywood, near King's Lynn, after thieves scaled a six foot fence in broad daylight.

Although she was rescued her brother and sister are still missing.

Ella's owner, teacher Jo Dolton, and her two daughters, Alice, 12 and Sally, 14, realised Ella was missing at 8.45pm on Friday.

"We think she must have run along the back of our garden hedge and got out onto the road [the A1065 to Swaffham].

"A neighbour saw her and suspected she was ours. He was just pulling over to pick her up when another car, a purple Corsa with a young couple inside pulled up and bundled her inside."

Ms Dolton added: "It's really upset the whole family. Alice had always wanted a dog, it had always been her thing. She is devastated that Ella's gone."

She said Ella had been the reject of a litter because one of her legs was broken and she had to wear a little plaster all the time.

Ms Dolton said: "She is a lovely friendly dog, I think that's why border terriers can be so easy to steal, they're so friendly and inquisitive."

Bella, a six-week-old German shepherd/Rhodesian ridgeback cross only just escaped the clutches of dog thieves who still hold her brother and sister captive.

The pup and her siblings were snatched from their owner's back garden on Tuesday between 11.45 and 3.45pm.

Luckily for Bella, she was found later that day in the arms of two young girls on a nearby estate - but her two companions seem to have disappeared without a trace.

Distraught owner Linda Frost, of Bagge Road, Gaywood, appealed to the thieves to search their conscience and bring the puppies home.

Bella, another bitch and a dog were with their mother, three-year-old German shepherd Shadow, when the three puppies were snatched.

"It was absolutely horrible, I thought they had gone behind a board in the back garden, but they weren't there."

Frantic with worry, Mrs Frost called police and after word spread among her neighbours one stumbled upon Bella on the nearby Fairstead estate.

"It was brilliant to see her back," said Mrs Frost.

The missing pair, which are very similar to Bella, are a bitch walking with a slight limp because of a thorn in one of her paws and a dog with white tips on his paws and a small white blaze on his chest.

Rupert Honywood, founder of the Missing Pets Bureau said: "Staffordshire bull terriers are the most targeted breed but it is no longer just pedigrees being stolen.

"This could be for a number of reasons, but one possibility is that criminals now use owners' personal details on dog's ID tags to levy ransoms, so that it makes no difference whether they have a resale value or not.

"For the owner it's the worst thing you could go through."

The Missing Pets Bureau recommends a free Petback Protect ID tag which will provide 24-hour support should their pet go missing.

Police spokesman Beth Manning advised dog owners to keep a close eye on their pets and contact police immediately if they became aware of any suspicious vehicles near their home.

Jayne Hayes, who set up the UK's first pet-finding website, doglost.co.uk, said she was getting an increasing number of calls from distressed owners of stolen dogs.

Some had even paid five-figures ransoms to get their pets returned.

"It's a very organised, lucrative business, and I think the police are only just coming round to it," she said. "People are petrified, and if it's your dog you're going to pay up because they are part of your family.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of the two puppies should call Sgt Henry Taylor on 0845 456 4567.

The Missing Pets Bureau can be contacted on 0800 0195123.


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