Figures of dogs reported stolen in Yorkshire this year have increased by 27 per cent, with desirable breeds such as French bulldogs and spaniels significantly more likely to be taken.
Criminals are thought to be cashing in on the rising demand – and even going to sick lengths such as cutting out their microchips by hand to avoid detection.
The Chief Executive of the Dogs Trust, Owen Sharp, warned that the demand was at "an all-time high" with prices for some breeds increasing "month-by-month" since the first lockdown in March.
Mr Sharp said: “Demand for dogs is at an all-time high but not only that, our research has shown that prices for some of the UK’s most desirable dog breeds are at their highest in three years, and possibly ever, with the costs for some dogs increasing month on month since lockdown began.
“Given the high demand for dogs and the increase in prices, it is no wonder criminals are taking advantage of the situation."
Humberside Police recorded 25 thefts of dogs between January and the end of July this year, a rise from the 11 reported thefts in the same period last year.
South Yorkshire Police recorded 46 in the same period, up from 30 last year, while North Yorkshire dealt with 16 up from five. West Yorkshire was the only force to see a drop in reported dog thefts this year.
More recently, two female spaniels including a four-month-old puppy were snatched from a garden in Doncaster just one week before Christmas.
Katherine Krueger-Grain, a veterinary nurse in Skipton who herself has bred dogs, said the rise in "trendy" breeds meant that people were jumping into buying puppies without research, allowing criminals to get away their actions.
The nurse said that there had been a "definite rise, without a doubt" in demand for dogs this year, and that criminals were known to be stealing desirable breeds to breed litters for cash.
"People are just falling for these cute little puppies without thinking things through," she said.
"Breeders should be questioning you as much as you question them. If not, that might be a sign something isn't right."
Statistics released by the Dogs Trust earlier this year revealed that one in eight puppy-buyers suspect they were lied to by the seller.
Ms Krueger-Grain added that criminals who steal dogs for breeding purposes were using fraudulent and sometimes dangerous tactics to avoid detection.
"Because of the trend for fashionable cross-breeds, breeders can get away with saying puppies haven't had health checks as these dogs aren't required to have the same checks that pure breeds get, such as hip scores for Labradors.
"I've also seen fake Kennel Club documents before," Ms Krueger-Grain said.
"One of the worst things which some criminals are doing is buying microchip scanners - which are easily available online - and using them to detect where that stolen dog's chip is and cutting in to extract it.
"This can leave a dog in horrific pain and with terrible injuries. But these people don't care – they'd sooner abandon an unwell dog on a roadside than take it to the vet's."
Chloe Addison, a mother-of-four from Rotherham, reported the family's pet pug Lucy stolen on September 2 after she disappeared from their garden in Thurcroft, with witnesses reporting seeing the one-year-old being bundled into a van nearby.
Lucy was an assistance dog for Ms Addison's youngest daughter, Ellieanna, four, who was born with a rare heart condition. The family fear the worst, as Lucy relies on medication for breathing problems for which she was due to undergo an operation days after she was reported stolen.
"She has gone without medication now for nearly four months," Ms Addison, 27, said.
"She can't be bred because of her condition so stealing her is pointless – all we want is for her to be brought home safely.
"Before Lucy, my daughter had problems communicating due to her brain injuries but since getting her there have been big changes. I can't tell my children that someone stole their puppy, I've always taught my kids that stealing is wrong and it would break their hearts."
There is currently a £3,000 reward for Lucy, who may be experiencing fits without her medication.
Ms Krueger-Grain added: "The only way this is going to stop is to stop funding these criminals, and that stops when the customer educates themselves. The main thing is to ask lots of questions - especially if it has any health defects - and make sure your puppy has been micro-chipped."
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