Published: June 15, 2021
DRUG dealers are turning to dog theft after the price of puppies soared during the national lockdowns.
And in a chilling new documentary, one dognapper reveals how his gang takes the animals “wherever we find them”.
Low risk but lucrative, dog theft has spiralled by 170 per cent in the past year, according to the charity DogLost, as criminals cash in on our growing demand for pets.
Now one gang leader has spoken on camera about their tactics, including brazen daylight burglaries and luring puppies from parks.
He said: “We take dogs wherever we can find them. Whether it’s actually going into a house to get them, whether it’s a dog in the park that we can lure away quickly, whatever way we can get them, we get them.”
Appearing with his face and voice disguised, he recounts creating his “own little team” after noticing the lockdown demand for dogs.
Puppy prices have quadrupled and estimates say eight million new dogs are needed every year to meet demand in Europe, while only 1.1million are produced by official breeders.
A fellow gang member says they feel little remorse about stealing beloved pets.
He admits: “To me, the dogs are just money. You’ve got to take the attachment out.”
‘THEY JUST WANT THE DOG’
The gang typically find breeders with a new litter before “scoping the place out”.
One gang member says: “We mainly target litters because a lot of the time we don’t want fully grown dogs, we want the puppies.”
Sometimes they steal an adult dog they reckon could be good for breeding, keeping the creature as an “investment”.
They post adverts with pictures of the puppies, insisting they would “look pretty legit” to a potential buyer.
And when it comes to selling the pups, they add: “No one asks about the puppy’s family history. They just want the dog.”
The gang’s leader is still selling drugs in rural areas as well.
He explains: “It’s what we call ‘OT’ — going out of town.” But he admits sometimes thinking about the people he steals from.
“Someone’s looking for all these dogs,” he says.
“It’s not a great feeling but at the same time, you’re doing it for the money. It’s not something to be proud of.”
While the maximum sentence is seven years in jail, the Kennel Club says fewer than five per cent of dog thefts result in a criminal conviction — meaning there is little risk though the upshot for the gangs is high rewards.
In the documentary, The Gangs That Steal Your Puppies on Vice, the gang’s leader confirms: “This is an easier business than drugs right now. I don’t know anyone that’s gone to jail for it.”
Simon and Lisa Lilley’s beloved cocker spaniels Biscuit and Missy — two of five pooches they owned — were dognapped from their garden on March 5.
The couple, from Stafford, Staffs, say the thieves climbed over hedges and disabled security cameras in what was clearly a sophisticated operation.
Devastated Simon says: “Our lives changed ever since that night.
“Lisa is sleeping downstairs on the settee so she can listen out for the (three remaining) dogs.”
Through tears, Lisa adds: “It’s so I can get to them now. I couldn’t get to them that night.”
When asked what she would say to the thieves, Lisa can barely speak, such is the emotion connected to her loss.
Eventually she says: “Just please bring them back home. We don’t care how much money you’ve had to pay to have them, we’ll give you the money. Just bring them back home.”
That cuts little ice with the gang leader, however.
His advice to worried dog owners: “Get yourself a hamster or a cat!”