Dog thefts on the rise in Welwyn Hatfield and Potters Bar
Dog owners left "broken" after having their beloved pets stolen have spoken out after police figures revealed an increase in thefts across Hertfordshire.
In 2016/17, Herts Police received reports that two Yorkshire Terriers, a seven-week-old puppy, a Cockerpoo, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a Hungarian Vizsla, and a Huskey had been stolen from Welwyn Hatfield.
In the same time frame in Hertsmere, a pug, Chihuahua cross and a Cockapoo were reported also stolen.
The figures from a Freedom of Information request revealed that the number dogs being stolen in Hertfordshire is at its highest level in five years.
Last year out of the 22 dogs that were reported to Hertfordshire Constabulary as stolen, eight were taken from back gardens.
In August last year a Potters Bar couple were left “broken and distraught” after two of their dogs, Ruby and Peggy, were stolen from their back garden.
An eyewitness called police after spotting two men jumping over Susan Fitzsimmons and John Stockley’s fence.
Their seven dogs were in the garden at the time in kennels, including their Lurcher Ella who was kicked so hard in the stomach that she died from internal bruising days later.
Susan, 42, said not knowing what has happened to them still keeps her up at night and that she’s “terrified” that they have been used for dog baiting.
The care worker, who visited a psychic in a bid to know what had happened her pets, said: “I don’t know if I believe in it or not but I was desperate and needed to try absolutely everything.”
The psychic told her that Peggy and Ruby had been separated but didn’t state whether the pair were safe or alive.
Charities Dogs Lost and Murphy’s Army, who help reunite pets and families, have been a “constant support” to Susan.
Through the charities, someone made an anonymous donation of £3,000 as a reward for whoever returns Peggy and Ruby.
Susan added: “If it wasn’t for Dogs Lost and Murphy’s Army I don’t know what I would have done. They even answer my questions in the middle of the night.
“Someone must know if it’s their loved one who stole our dogs and if you do please have a heart and return them.
“We will never ever give up looking for them.”
Dean Mills, 52, of Hatfield, was walking his two Collie cross brown and white dogs in January last year on a grass verge near the Galleria in when his pooch Buddy went under some bushes and disappeared.
As Buddy is chipped, Dean believes that he was stolen as no one has ever handed him in.
At first he offered a £500 reward for his return but Dean is now offering £5,000 to whoever returns Buddy safely.
In a message to those who steal or keep dogs they find, Dean said: “You’re not taking a dog, you’re taking a family member.
“How would you feel if someone took your loved one and you had no idea if they were okay or not?
“If I found out someone had taken him in then that’s good that he’s safe, but at the same time they should have taken him to a vets to see if he was chipped.”
At about midday on Monday, May 14, suspected dog snatchers were spotted operating in St Albans by walkers for Verulam Pet Services who were walking five dogs around Batchwood Park when a car drove up.
While one man stayed inside the vehicle with the engine running, another got out and tried to coax some of the dogs over.
The professional walkers herded the pooches back to safety, and stayed around to warn others of the danger.
Co-owner of the business Claire Trulock advised walkers to stay alert to dog thieves, especially when the dog is not on a lead.
“It is actually quite scary, but we are very vigilant, as every dog walking company is.
“It’s worrying for people walking dogs on their own - especially as people get distracted on their phone or daydreaming.”
A spokesperson for Dogs Lost said: “One of the biggest problems is that many go missing and are never classified as stolen. They may have been found and kept, or stolen, sold on without the new owner realising the dog’s background.
“In every situation the not knowing for owners is very very hard. There is always that hope that one day they will get the call to say that their dog has been found.”