Page last updated at 09:35 GMT, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Pet marks 'vital' to solve thefts

Sanctuary owner Joy Bloor with Zeus
Zeus, a 7st sulcata tortoise, was returned to Joy Bloor's sanctuary

Pet owners in Cornwall are being warned to mark and photograph their animals in case they are stolen.

Marking exotic pets in particular was "vital" to make them more easily identifiable, the National Theft Register for Exotic Animals said.

It comes after more than 30 tortoises were stolen from the Tortoise Garden at Sticker, near St Austell, in August. A man has admitted stealing five of them.

Joy Bloor from the garden said marking meant they could be identified quickly.

A 15-year-old, seven-stone (44kg) sulcata tortoise called Zeus was one of the animals stolen.

He was returned to the sanctuary after he was recognised by a woman who bought him.

Proving ownership

However, 28 animals are still missing.

Joy Bloor, who runs the sanctuary, described the thefts as "horrendous" but that there was a huge market for them, so she ensured all of her animals were marked and and photographed.

She said: "Any identifying marks are a good idea, because it's about proving that it's your tortoise really."

John Haywood, from the National Theft Register for Exotic Animals, said it was "absolutely vital" animals should be protected.

He said: "Many of these special animals are quite valuable. Security has to play a part."

Danny Stephen Woodley, 36, from Enfield, London, admitted at Bodmin Magistrates' Court in November stealing Zeus and four other tortoises from the sanctuary.

He was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was also given 80 hours of unpaid community work.

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