ORGANISED CRIMINAL gangs may be behind a spate of dognappings that has left families in a Surrey town devastated.
Borough council dog warden Lorraine Burtenshaw voiced the fears after a family in Reigate suffered the loss of their beloved puppy.
Incredibly, the George family spotted Jack Russell terrier Tinks days later and managed to retrieve him, but many other families in the area have not been so lucky and their dogs are still missing.
Ms Burtenshaw said: ‘It's just a nightmare and has been going on all over the country. It seems to be people who care most about the dogs who suffer the thefts.
‘We've now got an idea it's an organised crime ring behind it. A lot of dogs are going abroad and many travel long distances. I remember a dog going missing in Godstone and ending up in the New Forest in Hampshire.
‘Dog theft is a very lucrative trade and there seems to be a fashion in what gets stolen. Last year it was all Springers, now it's mainly Jack Russells.’
Mystery surrounds the latest reported theft of eight-month-old Tinks from outside the George family home in Wray Lane last month after she was spotted in a passing car.
Owner Sally George said: ‘We thought there was no way we were getting her back. We all burst into tears when we got her and haven't stopped cuddling her since.
‘We were driving back on Croydon Road near Holmesdale Road and I spotted the dog in a car. We spoke to the older lady who was with it and she said that her daughter found it in New Addington. We were so delighted to get her back; the lady left before we could get her details.
We think she was definitely taken but we don't know how. The lady wasn't trying to be discreet.
‘It's like winning the lottery. The chances of us driving along at that time were just unbelievable.
It’s fate I think - we obviously meant to get her back. It's a happy ending for once.’
Mrs George said the woman driving the car where Tinks was found was well dressed and in her 60s. Ms Burtenshaw added that the borough council was very keen to find out who the woman was and investigate her claims.
Mrs George said that from now on Tinks would be fitted with a microchip and they would put gates on the front of the house to avoid a repeat scare.
The 49-year-old, who works at a solicitor's firm in West Street, Reigate, noticed Tinks was missing while a friend was visiting on the morning of Wednesday May 24.
The family, including husband Eric, 14-year-old daughter Nathalie, and 11 year-old Michael, suspect she was taken from in front of their house.
A Surrey Police spokesman said they would not be investigating the incident further.
He said: ‘Missing dogs are primarily dealt with by dog wardens from the local council who will only report incidents to Surrey Police where there is actual evidence to show that the dog was stolen.
‘Should any further information come to light as a result of their inquiries to indicate that a dog was stolen we will work closely alongside them where possible to recover the dog and deal with the offenders.
‘There have only been three recorded incidents of theft in East Surrey so far this year. Any recent spate of stolen dogs has not been reported to Surrey Police and so we are not in a position to speculate on who could be responsible.’