A family has branded a council ‘heartless’ after they claim they were told they had put up too many stolen dog posters and faced a £1,000 fine if they didn’t tear them down.
Beloved French Bulldog Tina was snatched from the family’s locked van in broad daylight as they shopped at a Morrisons supermarket in Chingford, east London.
Devastated owner Patrycja Kowalczyk says Tina had been hidden in the back seat of the van behind tinted windows.
She and her father were shocked when they returned from a shop of around half-an-hour at 3.30pm on May 7 to find a back window forced open and Tina vanished.
Patrycja told the Mirror: “When we came back the back window of our van was open despite having an alarm, but it didn’t go off and the dog was gone. That was one of the most terrible things to realise.”
“The window in the back was tinted and she was out of sight, it wasn’t like she was in the front seat where anyone could see her.”
The desperate family, from Walthamstow, launched a massive appeal to trace Tina and reported the theft to police immediately.
Patrycja estimates 8,500 posters were put up across south east England with the help of pals and volunteers.
She did not think the numbers were excessive because the posters had been spread over the capital’s 32 boroughs and as far as Southend in Essex and Notthingham.
Patrycja said the family were happy to remove flyers and place them at approved locations instead, but claimed they are still waiting for a list from Waltham Forest Council.
She says she was shocked when one of her volunteers told her she was contacted on Monday by one of the council’s employees and ordered to take down the posters around the borough – or face a £1,000 fine and potentially the bill for removal costs too..
Patrycja says the employee ordered them to strip the posters from lamp-posts, trees and bus stops, explaining there were too many and they were too ‘visible’.
She said other missing pet posters were up too, and the family felt unfairly targeted.
She called the council “heartless,” adding: “Isn’t that the point of the posters’? We want people to see them. Every lost pets organisation in the UK says to put up posters- that’s their main advice.”
Adding to the family’s distress, Patrycja also says a missing dogs organisation contacted them saying Tina had been found and was in the council’s care.
Their hopes raised, the family called and were told the dog had not been handed in to wardens.
The council told the Mirror Tina had not been found and said they were unable to determine why the family were told she had been located.
But when Patrycja claims when the family called the council asking about Tina three times over the space of a week they were ‘aggressively’ told to stop ringing, and advised dog wardens would call if their pet’s microchip was scanned anywhere.
Patrycja said: “Honestly my jaw dropped. I could not believe that happened.
“These are the people meant to be taking care of stray dogs. That was just shocking, we had just been excited thinking someone had found her.”
A Waltham Forest Council spokesperson said in response to queries about the fine threat and claims the family was informed their pet was found: “We are sorry to hear of the family’s loss of their pet dog Tina. Our Dog Team have spoken with the family and offered advice and support.
“We urge anyone with information to contact the owners who have offered a reward for the dog’s safe return. We will continue to engage with the family on this matter.”
The heartbroken pet owner says until her own dog went missing she had no idea of the scale of the UK’s dognapping crimewave, which surged in lockdown.
Patrycja explained she felt safe leaving the dog in the car because the supermarket carpark carried signs warning of CCTV surveillance.
She claims after she requested Morrisons’ help with getting CCTV of the moment of the theft, the branch told her the CCTV camera facing into the car park where her van was located wasn’t working at the time.
Patrycja said she had also asked the supermarket for footage of herself entering the store, to probe a tip-off that someone was seen following them indoors before Tina was snatched, but had gotten nowhere.
Morrisons told the Mirror the company was unable to directly share any CCTV footage of other customers with her or allow her to view it, due to data privacy rules
A spokesperson added Morrisons can share CCTV footage with the police, but had not had any requests from them to view it yet.
Patrycja told the Mirror the police had requested the footage, adding the family felt let down by the council and supermarket and increasingly worried they wouldn’t see their dog again.
“All we wanted was to find her and have the support of those from our local community. We have no option but to comply and have started removing posters though this has added enormously to our desperation and pain.
“We just want to get our girl home after a cruel crime was committed against us – it shouldn’t be this hard.”
- Help find missing Tina by following the family’s Facebook appeal here.