Rare breeds of dog are being stolen from Midland homes and sold every year, with some being taken by thieves who then demand a ransom from their owners, it emerged today.
Chihuahuas, Japanese akitas, Siberian huskies and lurchers are among more than 400 animals taken by thieves over the past three years. Experts say the poor state of the economy means dogs are being stolen by people “looking to make a fast buck” and cash in on high-value animals, with some being sold in back-street pubs.
Figures obtained by the Express & Star show that since 2010, 443 dogs were reported stolen across the Staffordshire, West Midland and West Mercia police force areas.
The Kennel Club, the largest UK organisation for dogs’ health and welfare, said more needed to be done to protect dogs.
Spokesman Bill Lambert said: “There appears to be an increase in dog thefts and dogs going missing.
“The stories we get are of a lot of dogs being stolen for gardens and places where they are tied up, such as outside shops.
“We hear of more and more stories, possibly attached to the poor economy and times of hardship where people will steal anything to make a fast buck. We hear of dogs being sold in pubs for small amounts of money, just £50 or £100.
“What is more worrying is that dogs are being stolen and then returned to the owners for a ransom payment. The number of those stories is increasing, so that is a real concern.”
Figures, revealed after a Freedom of Information request by the Express & Star, show that 216 dogs were stolen in the West Midlands since 2010, a further 114 in Staffordshire and 113 in West Mercia.
The most common breed stolen is the Staffordshire bull terrier.
Siberian huskies can be sold for up to £700 legitimately while Japanese akitas can fetch up to £1,200 each. But on the black market, animals would be sold for a fraction of those prices.
Michael Lambeth, aged 55, today told of his heartache since his Willenhall home was broken into and three bulldog puppies taken along with cash and jewellery in January.
Since then, Mr Lambeth says he is constantly looking over his shoulder, in fear that the culprits may return.
He said: “I just felt so sick when I realised they’d taken the puppies – I bottle-fed those pups from day one.
“I’m always on edge – just going up the garden I’m constantly looking over my shoulder.”
Last month, the family owners of cocker spaniel Milo, one of two stolen from a Bewdley home, issued a fresh plea for the dog’s safe return, while a Staffordshire bull terrier was snatched from its owner’s arms in the Hunter Road car park in Cannock earlier this year.