Cruel puppy thieves snatching beloved pets away from their families and selling them on for enormous profits have warned owners to keep an eye on their pooches.
A gang based in Birmingham which imports stolen puppies from Europe and brings them to the UK revealed how they cut foreign chips out of the pooches before inserting UK chips.
Then, the animals are sold on for huge profit – sometimes up to 400 per cent.
Speaking in a Vice documentary, a masked thief said a French Bulldog could be bought for £300 in Romania – but in the UK it could sell for up to £3000.
When they described cutting the flesh of the puppies to change the chips, the horrified interviewer asked if the process left the animals in distress.
The gang member, called ‘Martin’, replied: “Yes.”
The interviewer then asked if the evil process amounts to animal abuse.
Martin replied: “Call it what you want. It’s bread on the table.”
He added: “We’re not interested in [the puppies’] welfare after the dogs have gone from us.”
Shockingly, Martin said the buyers of these puppies often have no idea where their four-legged friend has come from – usually being shipped in from Romania. He argued the soaring demand for puppies in the UK is funding the puppy farming industry.
Another puppy gang in North London admitted to stealing dogs within the UK and selling them on for profit – or using them to breed.
The ringleader of the gang, who had served time in jail but was released at the start of the pandemic, chillingly said: “We take dogs wherever we find them. Whether it’s actually going to a house or whatever to get them, whether it’s a dog in the park we can lure away quickly – whatever way we can get them, we get them.”
He added: “It’s not a great feeling obviously, but at the same time, you’re doing it for the money, ain’t you?”
The thief added most owners don’t ask many questions about where their new puppy came from or what its bloodline is. He claimed: “People just want the dog.”
His chilling message to owners was: “Don’t let your dog run ahead of you. Because when that happens, we might be there.”
Dressed in a burgundy tracksuit, his criminal partner said: “To me the dogs are just money.”
The gang said the risk of getting caught by police for puppy theft and farming is low and none of them know anyone who has been convicted for the crime.
Katy Bourne, police and crime commissioner for Sussex, said people can be caged for as long as seven years for puppy theft – but conviction rates are low.
“I’d like to see more convictions and these criminals caught and locked up,” she said.
The documentary also tells the story of Ceilidh, who turned detective to find her stolen Staffordshire bull terrier Eco when she was stolen from under her nose.
Ceilidh described the theft as a “split second” heist. One minute, Eco was in front of her in the park and the next she had been kidnapped.
But after raising the profile of Eco’s disappearance online, Ceilidh managed to “kidnap Eco back.”
Although conviction rates for illegal puppy farming are low, online pet detectives are taking matters into their own hands, investigating missing pets and helping bereft owners.
Lisa Dean said: “Pet theft needs to be a crime in its own right. The penalties need to be increased so there’s a custodial sentence and there’s consequences. The price of dogs needs to be capped.”