Petnapping On The
Rise In England
by Sherry Morse
Cold-blooded criminals are stealing pets from
prosperous homes across England and demanding large ransoms
to guarantee their safe return.
Jayne Hayes, founder of Doglost, an online
dog theft database which she started after her own dog was
stolen last year, says the ransom demands have skyrocketed
with one couple paying 2500 pounds (about $5000) to get their
Newspapers reporting on the problem of family
pets being stolen for ransom have said that although the problem
is not yet large scale, it has emerged as a "faintly bizarre
branch of criminal enterprise."
Often the dogs are ransomed for drug money
and at least one person has been sent to jail for almost two
years for handling stolen goods and admitting blackmail in
a case of dognapping.
Brian Milligan, a dog warden in Kent, says,
"The stress and anxiety these owners go through when their
dog is stolen is unbelievable. Some people don't understand
it and say to them: 'It's only a dog - you can get another
one.' But to these people, it's their life."
Milligan said he knew of a case where a woman
handed over 3000 pounds to get her dog back.
Both Hayes and Milligan said that, in most
cases, the owners who have paid ransoms for their dogs are
unwilling to talk about their experience because they have
been threatened by the thieves.
In East Horsley, three dogs have disappeared
over the last three weeks from the Effingham and Bookham Commons.
Sarah Lloyd-Williams, who owns one of the missing dogs, said
she believes that the spate of dogs disappearing seems a bit
"We just feel a bit helpless because
it is such a long process to find out what has happened to
them," she said.
Melanie Cutler, owner of the other two missing
dogs, added, "I am very upset and hurt and I can't get over
Milligan estimated that 50,000 dogs are stolen
in England each year, and said that some dogs - especially
pedigreed dogs, or working dogs such as Labradors and retrievers
- are never returned. He said it is likely that those dogs
are being stolen by 'professional' dog thieves who then sell
them on for breeding.
© 2003 Animal News Center, Inc.