Dog was stolen from garden after being left alone for just 15 MINUTES

2 months ago 27

A woman whose 18-month-old dog was stolen from her garden has revealed how the canine was mysteriously returned just three months later.

Cintia Gardner, 42, her husband and two young children were left devastated when their Cocker Spaniel Honey was taken from the gated garden outside her house in a quiet Kent cul-de-sac last June. No trace of the thief was ever found. 

Then, three months later, Cintia and her family looked outside to find Honey walking up to their back door after mysteriously reappearing. 

Moments after the dog arrived, Cintia received a call from a stranger using an unknown number who said: 'Go and look for your dog'.

It comes after data revealed dog thefts increased by a staggering 19 per cent during lockdown, with Staffordshire bull terriers the prime targets. 

Cintia Gardner, 42, her husband and two young children were left devastated when their Cocker Spaniel Honey was taken from the gated garden outside her house in a quiet Kent cul-de-sac last June. The dog was mysteriously returned to their garden three months later

Cintia said Honey (pictured) was unexpectedly returned in September with a red marking on her ear and significant weight loss. Cintia believes organised criminals were responsible

'To this day, I have no idea who I was talking to,' Cintia wrote in the Independent. 'I never found out if it was the person who took her, or some kind soul who had found her.' 

Honey looked thinner but otherwise healthy, although she did have a red mark on her ear similar to the ones seen on farm animals. 

'To me it seems likely that her theft was the work of an organised crime group,' Cintia said. 

When the family bought honey two years ago, the family paid £550. Now the same breeder is charging £2,500 for pups.  

Cintia said she's hoping her four-year-old will forget Honey being taken and the theft has impacted her entire family

How lockdown has triggered a spike in dog thefts 

Demand for dogs during the Covid-19 crisis has triggered a reported 170 per cent rise in thefts across the country in the past year, with some breeds fetching up to £4,000 each – four times their pre-pandemic price.

A stolen dog can be used to produce litters that earn breeders tens of thousands of pounds. Thieves, including organised gangs, have targeted owners in their homes, gardens or even during walks.

In February, Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to crack down on the 'absolutely shocking' rise in pet thefts. 

Even officials at the Queen's rural retreat at Sandringham in Norfolk have issued warnings to dog walkers about the threat.

Earlier this month, data revealed dog thefts increased by a staggering 19 per cent during lockdown, with Staffordshire bull terriers the prime targets.

An estimated 2,438 dogs were reported stolen to police across the UK last year – the equivalent of seven a day.

Some 97 Staffordshire bull terriers were stolen, according to the figures from Direct Line Pet Insurance.

An estimated 2,438 dogs were reported stolen to police across the UK last year including a total of 97 Staffordshire bull terriers (pictured) whose puppies can be sold for £1,000 each

It is thought the dogs are taken for breeding purposes, with Staffie puppies selling for £1,000 each.

Crossbreeds were the second most targeted while cocker spaniels, springer spaniels and Labradors were also popular targets.

Regional data, revealed through Freedom of Information requests, found there was a 68 per cent rise in dog thefts in the North West, making it the UK's hotspot.

London came second, followed by the South East and Yorkshire. Just over a fifth of dogs were reunited with their owners.

Madeline Pike, of Direct Line Pet Insurance, said: 'Making sure the microchipping contact details are up to date can help identify a dog if it is stolen and handed in.'

She added: 'It's incredibly sad to see the number of dog thefts rising by such a large proportion in 2020.

'Unfortunately, it seems the increase in dog ownership over lockdowns has also translated to a rise in dog thefts, as thieves know how valuable some of these breeds can be and see them as a commodity rather than a beloved member of the family.

'The worry is these numbers will increase even further this year once dogs are left alone more as restrictions ease and we return to a new 'normal'.

This year, Lady Gaga launched appeal after her French bulldogs were stolen at gunpoint in LA

'Taking simple precautions like not leaving your dog tied up outside a shop or keeping it on the lead when in busy areas, will help reduce the likelihood of being targeted.'

Experts say the pandemic is likely to have had an impact on cases of dog theft, as ownership has soared since lockdown began in March last year.

Some 2.2 million people became dog owners during the first six months of the pandemic, with one in nine people spending more than £1,500 on a new puppy.

Earlier this year pop icon Lady Gaga launched an enormous appeal after two of her French bulldogs were stolen at gunpoint in Los Angeles.

Koji and Gustav were taken by a group of men who pulled up in a car and demanded her friend, who was out walking the animals, hand them over.

The dogs were found safe and unharmed two days after the incident, by a woman who was 'uninvolved' with the robbery.

The demand for puppies has skyrocketed during lockdown and police have reported a rise in the number of organised crime gangs linked to dognappings.  

An estimated 2,438 dogs were reported stolen to police across the UK last year – the equivalent of seven a day - with Staffordshire bull terriers the biggest target. 

Some 97 Staffordshire bull terriers were stolen, according to the figures from Direct Line Pet Insurance.

It is thought the dogs are taken for breeding purposes, with Staffie puppies selling for £1,000 each. 

Cintia said Honey had been alone in their garden for just 15 minutes before being taken. Pictured: Cintia and her husband

Crossbreeds were the second most targeted while cocker spaniels, springer spaniels and Labradors were also popular targets.

Regional data, revealed through Freedom of Information requests, found there was a 68 per cent rise in dog thefts in the North West, making it the UK's hotspot.

London came second, followed by the South East and Yorkshire. Just over a fifth of dogs were reunited with their owners.

Cintia said the entire family was relieved to have Honey home but that her theft had made a lasting impact on her children. 

She continued: 'Whenever she's off the lead or goes to sniff in the bushes, my four-year-old gets extremely stressed. Even though he didn't understand exactly what had happened when she was taken, it seems to have had an impact on him.

'When Honey's out of sight, he cries and seems desperate to get her back close to him. We're hoping that, as he's so young, he'll forget in the years to come.

'To us, Honey is a family member but it's clear that, for some people, dogs are just a way to make money.' 

Cintia also called for tougher laws for dognappers.  

Only one in 100 dog thefts leads to court action, according to the group Pet Theft Reform, which wants to make stealing pets a specific crime. 

Most prosecutions result in a fine despite the offence carrying a maximum seven-year jail term. 

Cintia added: 'I hope that the law will one day get tougher on dog-nappers, to avoid this happening to another family.' 

Other victims of dognapping include retired policeman Mike Jasper, 66, who was assaulted by two men who took his three-year-old sprocker spaniel Ted in December while walking in South London. 

In January, student Allie Knight, 22, received two black eyes after being punched as two men tried to steal her pet pug Paddy in Plymouth.

South Yorkshire Police issued an appeal over an armed robbery in Sheffield two weeks ago in which three dogs were stolen at gunpoint by four men.

And last week, North Yorkshire officers warned owners ‘must not carry weapons on our streets’ after social media users vowed to arm themselves in the wake of an attack. 

The force said: ‘Not only do you run the risk of seriously injuring yourself or others, but it is against the law.’

Read Entire Article