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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 November, 2004, 12:55 GMT
Pedigree warning after dog thefts
Snowy was bought as a companion for his widower owner
Police say pedigree dogs in Gwendraeth Valley in west Wales may be being stolen to order after a spate of thefts.

Four canines have been snatched in recent weeks - three of them West Highland White Terriers or 'westies'

Thieves got through three bolted gates at one boarding kennel to take a six year old bitch and an 18 month puppy.

Another westie, Snowy, was taken while his pensioner owner popped into a shop in Gorslas.

John Barlow, 77, who had bought the dog as a companion after his wife's death, had tied the two-year-old outside

But when he returned after less than five minutes his pet was gone.

Dyfed-Powys Police's community safety officer Rob Chapman said he was concerned the thefts could be linked.

"When the first dog was reported missing we thought it was a one off," he explained.

"But now four dogs have gone from what is quite a small community area so something is going on.

"It could be someone is stealing these dogs to order or at least someone knows what is happening."

Easy target

He is advising dog owners in the area not to leave their pets unattended when out and about and to make sure garden gates are bolted shut if they are outside.

Jane Hayes, who set up the Dog Lost website 18 months ago to reunite pets and owners, said dog thefts are a big problem across the UK.

In the past year the website has reunited over 700 pets and their owners, and Ms Hayes claims more than 80% were stolen.

"Dog thefts are rife across the country," she explained.

"Westies are popular and lot have been stolen in the west country and Wales."

She said they were an easy target because they were small, friendly, need little food and are popular pets for the elderly and children.

Ms Hayes said Westie pups are worth hundreds of pounds and fetch prices of 30 to 50 on the black market.

"It really is heartbreaking for the owners because they are left in limbo," she added.

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