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Labradors amongst most popular target

Labradors are among the most popular targets for dog thieves and criminal gangs are becoming increasingly prepared to use violence to steal pets, according to charity Dog Lost.

The report also says there are cases of gangs threatening owners with knives and even guns to steal rare or expensive dogs. Spokeswoman Jane Hayes said it took over 100 calls a week from owners that believe their dogs have been stolen.

The Missing Pets Bureau, which says one-third of missing dogs are actually stolen, reports a surge in owners using pet detectives to find their animals.

Ms Hayes, of Dogs Lost, said that part of the problem was that the police did not take dog thefts seriously. "We have a few forces lately that have been working together with us and we've almost cut it out in their areas, when it's known that the police will help. There are two types of dog thief. You've got your professionals that travel around the country and they're after the working dogs - lurchers, terriers, labradors, and then unfortunately the biggest increase lately is inner city, where it's basically for drug money.

"They see a dog tied up outside a shop, they walk off with it and sell it round the corner in the local pub for £20, £30. Unfortunately these ones get more and more violent. Now they realise they're desperate for money they're attacking owners at knifepoint in parks in daylight."

Ms Hayes said owners should make sure their animal is identifiable, by use of a microchip or similar methods, and to also vary their regular walking routes.

This report follows recent reports of two attacks on Bulldog owners, though in both instances the dogs were either not taken or returned.