Gangs of dog thieves in the Alsager area, Chesire, have been identifying their victims with a letter ‘K’ on their driveways, police revealed.
Lookouts have been leaving a ‘K’ in crayon or spray paint in owners driveways to identify houses with valuable dogs that are worth stealing and selling.
Burglars then return later and take the dogs in an online black market trade, selling them for thousands of pounds a time.
Police estimate that there has been a 17 per cent increase in dog thefts in the UK over the last year, with 3,500 thefts reported in 2012.
Dog thieves regularly steal from back gardens or outhouses but there has been an increase in dog thefts from inside houses and on dog walks.
The RSPCA has suggested that owners report any suspicious behaviour to the police, and that dogs should be supervised while in a secure garden.
It is also highly advisable that dog owners get their dogs microchipped; although it is hard to find dogs once they are stolen, there are a number of cases where new owners have taken their dog to the vets and found out via the microchip that they belong to someone else.
There are a number of breeds being targeted including trained working dogs, chihuahuas and other ‘designer’ breeds, fighting dogs and, more recently, there has been a rise in the theft of cocker spaniels after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge adopted one of their own.