Cruel gangs stealing family pets to order
Roving gangs are stealing pedigree dogs to order -- often targeting specific breeds that are in vogue in the UK, where they are sold on the black market.
"It's a major problem and a growing one," according to Barbara Bent of the ISPCA.
"Sometimes you get a situation where they are targeting boxers or west highland terriers, and you would have a spate of robberies of those breeds over a few short weeks," she said.
The ISPCA is now receiving regular updates from its regional representatives who pass on reports of stolen dogs in their areas.
"You begin to see a pattern. They seem to go for the same breed. It's chocolate labs one week and yorkies the next.
"Recently there were a lot of dogs stolen in Cork, where labradors were targeted. It appears they were stolen to order," she said.
The ISPCA believes that many of the dogs are going to the UK.
"Many dogs are not microchipped so the RSPCA on the other side of the Irish Sea can do nothing. It is a legitimate trade to buy and sell dogs," Ms Bent added.
In cases where dogs are microchipped, the thieves will often abandon the stolen dogs rather than risk detection, and sometimes they are let loose in another part of the country -- far from where they were originally stolen.
All pedigree dogs should be microchipped, but a big problem is that the chip is often registered to the original breeder of the pub rather than the pet's owner. This sometimes means that it is impossible to reunite a stray, or a dog that has been stolen and then abandoned, with its proper owner because the breeder has no record of who bought a particular pup.
"Lots of the dogs which come to our attention are microchipped, but we cannot reunite them with their owners," she said.
Ms Bent said that stealing a family dog was a particularly nasty crime which leaves many owners heartbroken.
"It is not a victimless crime. You might have someone living alone who has their little yorkie in the back garden with a good fence and locked gate and someone comes in and takes the dog.
"The owner opens the back door to let the dog in and it's gone. It is absolutely devastating for them. You have to have owned and loved a dog to know what I'm talking about," she said.
"The problem is that anyone can print a pedigree form from the internet, which means stolen dogs can be sold on for €400 or €500. It's a ruthless but lucrative trade," she added.
Typical of the recent spate of robberies was the theft of father-and-son, tan-coloured boxers, Paddy, who is seven years old, and Arthur, who is two. The dogs, who have never been separated, were taken in Cliffoney, Co Sligo on July 13.
They are chipped and with DNA details taken. Paddy has an all-black face and three white socks, while Arthur has a white vertical blaze over his nose and four white socks.
He has a slight scar on his left flank.
Anyone with any information about Paddy and Arthur, tel: (087) 683-9922. There is a reward for their safe return.