By Oliver Farrimond
PET rustlers have stolen more than ?75,000 worth of animals in the past year.
The animals – including parrots, goldfish, sheep and a prize cockatiel worth ?6,000 – were snatched from public spaces and homes, with some being returned to their owners, and others turning up dead.
Among the animals targeted in the Edinburgh and Lothian areas were a flock of 200 sheep worth ?16,000 stolen from their field in the middle of the night, and four Herman tortoises boosted from a pet shop.
Brian Stuart, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, based in West Lothian, said that animals were often targeted for lucrative black market trading.
He said: “Exotic and expensive animals such as parrots and some dogs are often stolen to order.
“A few years ago the theft of peregrine falcon eggs decreased, but there has been an increase in these kinds of seizures.
“We are looking into three active enquiries at the moment.
“We caught one guy trying to smuggle 14 eggs abroad by hiding them to his chest.”
Mr Stuart added that he feared that increasing numbers of dogs were being abducted to fuel illegal dog-fighting rings.
He said: “More dogs are being taken from outside shops and intelligence suggests that they are being trained up for illegal activities such as dog fights, which sadly are on the rise.”
The statistics show that, in total, more than 400 animals went missing between the dates April 2009 to July 2010.
The figures also include the theft of a prize greyhound worth ?10,000, which was stolen from a barn but eventually returned to its owner.
Sharon King, 37, had her three-year-old collie dog stolen five years ago, and said that finding out that her dog had been killed left her “heartbroken”.
The collie dog, named Sasha, was thrown onto the M8 motorway near Hermiston Gait retail park and killed.
Sharon, from Sighthill, said: “It took me months to get over Sasha dying in such a horrific way.
“My son had taken Sasha for a walk down the shops and he’d tied her up for just five minutes.
“When he came out she wasn’t there, so we called the police.
“A few weeks later we were heartbroken to find out what had happened – two lads had stolen her, and they’d left her in the road to die.”
“I had to visit the doctors because I felt such a low depression, she was such a lovely, placid wee dog.
“We got a dog a few months later because the kids were missing Sasha, but I still think of her.”
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said that the best way to ensure a stolen pet is returned is to get it microchipped.