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Dogs held to ransom as gangs cash in on lockdown puppy demand

Written by on 27 December 2020

Criminal gangs are cashing in on an exploding demand for puppies driven by the pandemic lockdown.

Pedigree dogs are being stolen and used for intensive breeding after prices quadrupled because of the desire for a COVID companion.

Detective Superintendent Neil Austin from the National Police Chiefs’ Council told Sky News: “With more people working from home, the demand for puppies has increased – as has the cost of purchasing a puppy – which has increased from around GBP500 to more than GBP2,000.

Fears over dog smuggling as lockdown puppy prices rise by up to 89%

“This has become a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.”

Writer Melissa Cole’s two female springer spaniels, Jess and Tig, were among dogs stolen from a kennel in Bedfordshire in September.

“The thieves were organised and determined. They got through metal bars, alarms and other security,” she said.

“It’s organised crime, there is no other word for it.

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The police say stealing dogs has become more lucrative for criminals as people lower shopping standards for a COVID-19 companion.
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Female dogs are being used by criminals to exploit the increased demand for puppies

“I’ve even had videos posted to me with ransom demands, messages from children and I can hear them being coached what to say in the background. It was quite terrifying. But to pay them would simply encourage more thefts.”

Ms Cole got Jess back after she was rescued in a police raid on suspects, but the dog was not in good condition. Tig is still missing.

Melissa Cole says the dogs are being treated 'like cash machines'
Image:
Melissa Cole says the dogs are being treated ‘like cash machines’

“I really hope we can get her back,” she continued.

“I’m sure that like a lot of female dogs Tig has been taken so she can be bred for puppies. And the horrible thing about that is that they don’t get proper veterinary care.

“They don’t look after them and rinse them for as many puppies as they can. All they see are pound signs. They treat the dogs as cash machines that dispense puppies.”

Ms Cole is backing a campaign for a change in the law that classifies stolen pets as property and tougher sentences to reflect the emotional impact on victims.

Dog behaviourist Stan Rawlinson launched a parliamentary petition for legal change that has attracted just under half a million signatures.

“Pets are not classed as animals and therefore the penalty for stealing a dog is exactly the same as stealing your mobile phone,” he said.

“The law views pet theft as a petty crime, but there is nothing petty about stealing a person’s loved pet.”