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Police anger at ransom payment for stolen dog

POLICE SLAMMED a couple for paying a £750 ransom to secure the return of their beloved dog after it was stolen.

Dave and Mareth Curnock from Saltford, near Bath were told to drive to Cirencester to be reunited with their Lurcher Buddy after receiving an anonymous phone call one Sunday night, eight weeks after Buddy was stolen. The couple met the caller in a supermarket car park in the Gloucestershire town to hand over the cash.

Buddy was snatched from outside the Co-op store in Saltford in September, where he was tied up whilst the couple were shopping. Two men grabbed him and bundled him into an estate car. In the weeks following the theft, the Curnocks covered 3,000 miles following up leads, but after they offered a reward of £750 the call came through last Sunday night.

Mr Curnock said: ‘This guy said, 'I believe I've got your dog.'‘ They arranged to meet next to Greasy Joe's café in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, an hour’s drive from the Curnocks' home. ‘He said, 'You will come alone, won't you?'

‘We didn't tell the police because we just wanted our baby back,’ he added.

Mr Curnock said: ‘We never gave up hope of finding him because we had so much support. He recognised my wife straight away but we had to take him straight to the vets because he was 10lb underweight and looked like a skeleton. Buddy also had lacerations to his feet and, following veterinary treatment, is now on antibiotics’.

Mr Curnock added that the couple think Buddy was returned to them following a posting on a missing pets website about a dog taken to a vet in Berkshire.

‘In case there's a police inquiry I won't go into details too much at this stage,’ said Mr Curnock. ‘Needless to say the person who came forward with Buddy claimed they'd bought him unknowingly and took the large reward. To think they've been paid for putting us all through hell.
Mr Curnock criticised the police after they released CCTV images of a man they wanted to speak to in connection with the theft - six weeks after the incident.

‘The police have got to take this more seriously. To them it's only a dog but these thefts destroy people's lives,’ said Mr Curnock angrily. ‘For the past two months all we have done is try to find him. We are grateful to everyone who has helped.

‘Various lurcher and greyhound websites have been extremely supportive, as have our friends and family and the local newspapers.’

Avon and Somerset police put the delay in releasing the man’s image down to ‘technical problems’. However, they were able to respond to the news of Buddy’s recovery very quickly by putting out a warning urging pet owners not to pay dognappers to get their pets back.
A spokesman said: ‘We are taking this case very seriously and are still investigating the matter. ‘We are still anxious to trace the man captured on CCTV.

‘Fortunately, dognapping is not a common occurrence in Avon and Somerset.

‘But there have been cases where pets have been stolen and demands have been made for cash in exchange for the safe return of people's pets.

‘In the event of a dog owner being contacted and asked to pay a ransom for the return of their pet, we would advise the owner to contact police immediately.

‘While we can understand an owner's number one priority is the safe return of their pet, if the ransom is paid, then the offenders will simply move on to their next victim.’

The problem of dognapping is growing. Jayne Hayes, founder of the missing dog website DogLost UK, claims 100 dogs a week are being taken, although these figures are still the subject of some dispute. Many Lurcher-types are worked hard by the thieves - the man who handed Buddy back said the hound had caught enough rabbits to keep three families fed - until a reward is offered, at which point they are returned, often for much more than stipulated by their owners.

Neil Ewart, Chairman of the anti-dog theft action group Dog Theft Action told OUR DOGS: ‘Dog Theft Action can fully understand the anguish felt by the owners and can understand that they felt desperate enough to pay the sum demanded. In an ideal situation one would say these perpetrators should not be rewarded but the thought of harm coming to something that is part of a family is perfectly normal and it is difficult to put ourselves in the owners position.

‘Dog Theft is a particularly nasty crime and all dog owners are urgently asked to be vigilant and treat their dogs like any other highly valuable object.’