Two schoolgirls have foiled a gang’s attempts to steal beloved household pets by figuring out the secret code being used to identify homes with a dog.
Friends Sophie and Danielle, both 10, noticed that dognappers were tying zip ties around the bins of properties with animals so went around cutting them off near where they live in Sutton, north Dublin, Ireland.
The pair collected dozens of the black ties as they spent hours protecting neighbours from the heartless gangs.
Criminals were also using chalk to signal whether the homeowner is elderly, lives alone, or has a house alarm.
Sophie’s mum Sarah posted a photo of the girls’ haul as a warning to dog owners in the area to stay vigilant, Dublin Live reports.
She wrote: ‘Sophie and Danielle just cut these zip ties off the bins in the estate this morning!! Watch your pets.’
Thefts of dogs have increased rapidly during the coronavirus lockdown due to a rise in demand for puppies pushing up prices.
Gangs are targeting mostly pedigree and working dogs, with some being sold for thousands of pounds.
The youngsters became aware of the growing problem after overhearing mum and her friend, also called Sarah, discussing what was happening.
Sarah’s neighbour had been walking her golden retriever when a van pulled up beside them.
While one of the occupants distracted the woman for a moment, another man jumped out of the van and tried to wrestle the dog into the back. This attempt was stopped by a passerby who saw the commotion and caused the men to speed off without the pet.
In the past two months, 40 dogs have been taken in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, including several cocker spaniels.
In Lancashire, 22 dogs, including two litters of puppies, were taken in a raid on a breeder’s kennels.
The charity DogLost says dog thefts went up by 65% between March 23, when lockdown was announced, and June 1, compared with the same time last year.
Some have suggested owners change their dog-walking patterns because gangs could be watching popular routes to identify their next target.
A petition calling on the Government to make pet theft a specific offence has now gathered more than 123,000 signatures, passing the threshold needed to get a debate in parliament.
Currently pets are legally regarded as inanimate objects when stolen, meaning they are akin to a mobile phone or television.
A change in the law would mean thieves are given a minimum of two years in custody as a starting point for sentencing. Currently some can get away with just a fine.
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