Page last updated at 15:53 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 16:53 UK

Dog fighting fears for stolen pet

English Bull Terrier Hugo
Hugo was stolen from his owner's flat

The owner of an English Bull Terrier stolen from her flat fears he may be trained and used in illegal dog fights.

Two-year-old Hugo was taken from 22-year-old Laura Patch's east Reading flat near Cemetery Junction on Saturday night.

He was taken a week after a man wearing a hood tried to steal him from stables in Warfield, police said.

Ms Patch, who has offered a £200 reward for his safe return, said: "Hugo's my life and I really miss him."

It just breaks my heart that somebody has done this
Laura Patch

"I was absolutely hysterical when I got home and realised Hugo had been taken and just broke down in tears," she added.

"It just breaks my heart that somebody has done this."

Mark Young, a spokesman for the Bull Terrier Club, said dog thefts among the breed were not uncommon.

"Some unscrupulous people do target the dogs as they think they are fighting dogs even though most of them will not actually fight."

Stab wounds

Ms Patch added: "I think illegal dog fights are absolutely barbaric."

The theft comes after the RSPCA said dogs were having to be treated for stab wounds, burns and broken bones because they are increasingly being used in street fights.

The animal welfare body had 284 reports of dog fighting in 2008 in England and Wales compared with 24 in 2004.

Two-thirds of those calls to the RSPCA involved youths using their dogs as weapons in street fights - 188 cases in 2008 compared with 132 in 2007.

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