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Dog ‘stolen as bait’

A LONDON dog owner has accused travellers of stealing his dog and using it for ‘bait’ to train fighting dogs.

Nigel Hawkins, of Bromley said the theft happened amid claims that dog fighting was rife in the borough. Mr Hawkins said he was phoned by men who said they had found his Jack Russell, Buster, after he was snatched from outside a petrol station last Wednesday. They asked for money but did not call back to arrange a handover.

Mr Hawkins claims the men who took Buster were captured on CCTV and that the footage led police to focus their enquiries on the travelling community but that they were unable to recover the dog. The distraught pet owner has started leafleting the area in the hope that the men will get back in touch.

He said: ‘It seems the police can't touch the thieves because they are Travellers. I feel some sympathy for the police because they have been really good.

Jane Hayes, who runs the website, said that several dogs a month were reported missing in the borough. Some thieves ask for ransoms of up to £700 says Ms Hayes, although some owners willing to pay thousands of pounds.

He said: ‘If you are a dog-lover, you'll understand, they become part of the family. I really am quite upset about this.’

Fellow Jack Russell owner Beverley Harvey, from Sydenham, is now ‘ultra vigilant’ after the theft of her dog and says she has been alarmed by the site of youths preparing Pit Bull-type dogs for savage underground fights in Crystal Palace Park. She said: ‘This is a known practice in this area and one I witness several times a week. Last Wednesday, two young males in hoodies and sports wear were in Crystal Palace Park, walking two Staffie-Pit-Bull cross dogs, and making the dogs climb the tree and then making them hang on to the branches.’

‘A police spokesperson said that the force was unaware of illegal dogfights being taking place within the borough.

She added: ‘If anyone has any information about dog fighting, which is illegal, they should contact the police. Any reports of cruelty to dogs should be reported to the RSPCA.

If anyone has information on Buster, please contact Nigel Hawkins on: 07961 888 253.