A NEW Internet helpline has been launched to tackle a crime wave which is sweeping the countryside: dognapping.
A trained gundog can be worth up to £1,500 and almost any pedigree animal is worth at least £200. Criminals have latched onto a new source of income, either stealing dogs for re-sale or to return them to their owners for a large ransom.
The crime has become so common that three members of the Country Land and Business Association have each had dogs stolen - two Labradors, an Irish Setter and a pedigree French bulldog.
Now, two CLA members have set up a website where people can register missing animals so that vets, pet shop owners and dog wardens can check if they come across dogs under what seems to be suspicious circumstances.
The site is called Doglost and its co-founder Jane Hayes says:
"So far we've had 22 reports of dogs being held for ransom, but the owners frequently want to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. From the data we've gathered, up to 80 per cent of dogs that go missing are stolen. We know this because most dogs traced through our website are returned by people who had bought the dog in all innocence from a stranger."
"People should be careful about buying a dog that does not come with pedigree papers or from a known breeder. We are also advising dog owners to have their dogs micro chipped, a process that should cost around twenty pounds through a vet or dog warden."
Anyone who has lost a dog should log on to up www.doglost.co.uk.