HEARTLESS criminals are poaching pups during lockdown, new stats reveal.
Raids on kennels and homes have surged 65% compared with last year amid heightened demand for pedigree dogs as bored Brits look for company while stuck at home.
DogLost, which reunites missing pups with their owners, said they had reported 48 incidents of stolen animals from March 23 to June 1.
This compares to just 29 last year.
Certain breeds are being targeted by gangs – including labradors, Jack Russells, chihuahuas and cockapoos.
Figures last year obtained after a Freedom of Information request showed that rive dogs were stolen in England and Wales every day.
While forces do not keep official records – as the crime is classed as theft of property- it is suspected that the real figure could be twice this as victims do not contact police.
The Sun reported earlier this week that Cambridgeshire Police have told families to be extra vigilant after a spate of 17 dog thefts over the past two months, worth thousands of pounds.
Mary Goldsmith, 73, was left distraught when her three dogs were stolen from Cosy Kennels in Stretham, Cambridgeshire.
The heartbroken widow told the Cambridge Independent she had “nothing left to look forward to” after the cruel theft of her beloved West Highland terrier, chihuahua and schnauzer.
The Comet also reports that criminals apparently snatched two Staffordshire bull terriers from locals in Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
A mum in Walsall, Staffordshire is also appealing to thieves to return her daughter’s stolen therapy dog after it disappeared earlier this month.
Simba, a golden brown teacup chihuahua, went missing on July 7 and has since left little Summer, 9, riddled with anxiety, the Express and Star reports.
And in Suffolk, two Lhasa apso dogs and seven puppies, worth up to £2,000 each, were among pets stolen from kennels earlier this week, along with six Labrador puppies and a spaniel.
Melissa Murfet, whose dogs Annie, Betsy and Storm were stolen, said her children are “in pieces” following the disgusting theft.
Nicola Scarrow said her godmother’s three dogs were among the 17 taken in Cambridgeshire and offered a £350 reward each for their safe return.
Grace, a West Highland Terrier, Holly, a Jack Russell and Alice, a Chihuahua cross were snatched from a kennel in Stretham in the early hours of July 12 after thieves cut fencing to get inside.
Nicole said: “These are my godmother’s dogs. She lives on her own and they are her babies please help me find them.”
Jane Frankland, the stolen dog’s coordinator for the Doglost website, said: “Many dogs are being stolen because of a sudden high demand due to an increase in the price of puppies.
“We would advise owners to be on their guard even if they think they have a secure garden. All pets should also be microchipped and the details updated.”