A FAMILYS pedigree Shih Tzu bitch was stolen in broad daylight from a secure quarantine kennel, the latest victim in a growing list of dog thefts that have taken place in various dog theft hit spots around the UK.
Cleo (above), owned by Rachael Collins from Reading was stolen from Airpets kennels near Heathrow airport. She had been held in limited quarantine for health checks and was due to fly out to Cairo to be with Rachaels parents Janet and Steve on Monday of this week.
According to eyewitnesses, two or maybe three men turned up at the kennels in a van at the same time when the dogs were out of their runs, whilst the runs were being cleaned.
The men engaged a member of staff in conversation and then drove off again. The kennel maid cleaning the runs heard a great deal of barking from the dogs, and on checking them, saw that four year-old Cleo was missing. She was, in fact, the only dog taken, which indicates that the thieves had specifically targeted her.
The driver of the van is described as being white, 16 to17 years of age, with short, dark blonde hair and wearing a striped T shirt.
The second man, also white, was older, possibly in his thirties or forties, of stocky build, around 55 to 56 in height. He had short hair, and was balding at the front. He was wearing a cream/beige coloured top and dark trousers.
Police believe there was a third man, who actually took Cleo, whilst the other two men were talking to the member of staff, but unfortunately no one has a description.
The vehicle driven by the men was an S registration white van, possibly a Ford model with yellow number plates front and back. The van also had a yellow Motorway Maintenance sticker on the back, although police have thus far not been able to trace any such van involved in motorway maintainance duties.
At the time of theft, Cleo was wearing a red collar, with a small, red heart shaped tag inscribed with her name on one side, and a UK (Milton Keynes) phone number (01234-711135) on the other. This phone number has now been disconnected due to Mr and Mrs Collins moving to Egypt. Cleo is microchipped and, if scanned, her unique registration will indicate the Collins to be her owner.
Press Officer Rachael Collins, 23, told OUR DOGS: "I am terribly distressed that my pet has been stolen in this way, in broad daylight. I cant blame the kennels as such, as the men were obviously professional thieves, used to operating in the way they did. I am afraid that Cleo may be sold on to someone, so I would appeal to anyone who has been offered a Shih Tzu for sale to get in touch with either myself or the kennels as a matter of urgency.
"Cleo was the runt of the litter and is small even for a Shih Tzu, she is very friendly and will respond to her name."
Angela Lacey, 40, Manager of Airpets said: "I cant begin to express my regret for what has happened. We are close to the motorway and have people in vehicles turning up all the time, mainly owners to see their pets or deliveries. There was nothing unusual about a van pulling up in our parking area. Its clear these men knew which dog they were after, although this is odd, as Cleo wasnt in general view with the other dogs. I can only hope that someone comes forward with information leading to Cleos safe return to her owners.
"I was speaking to Mrs Collins the other day and we were both in tears about this, I havent been able to sleep properly since Cleo was stolen."
Airpets have put up posters about Cleos theft in the locality and on Internet dog theft sites and BBC news. Uxbridge police questioned staff at the kennels and have appealed to the public for further information. A substantial reward is being offered for the return of Cleo, put up by Rachael and the kennels.
Rachael Collins added: "I dont care about whether the men are caught or not, and there will be no questions asked, as long as I get Cleo returned safe and well to me."
If anyone has any information concerning Cleos theft, please contact Rachael Collins on phone: 07736-462587 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or contact PC Riley of Uxbridge Police on: 020-8246 1565.
Cleo pictured with her owner and family