POLICE have warned dog owners to be alert following reports a criminal gang is marking homes for pet theft.
Mysterious blobs of paint have been discovered on gates and doors in South Ayrshire communities.
Strathclyde Police are looking into claims the paint is a code used by criminals to target pets for theft, followed by use as “bait” in dog fighting.
Stolen animals are thrown into the ring to be torn to shreds by fighting dogs which afterwards turn on each other.
Officers have confirmed the existence of the markings and warned dog owners to be “vigilant”.
The house-marking warning was highlighted on Facebook by a number of concerned pet lovers who “shared” the notice.
It stated: “Keep your eye out for small coloured stickers on gates or doors.
“Gangs are marking how many dogs live there to steal and are using them for bait for dog fighting.
“Red stickers are for big dogs, yellow stickers are for medium breeds and pink for small breeds.”
The notice says the markings have been seen in several areas of Ayr and Maybole as well as numerous local villages.
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police confirmed that “there have in fact been a number of reported incidents of this nature”.
She added: “A local sergeant confirmed a number of people – who do own dogs – have found red blobs of paint on their front gates or doors.
“We would encourage people to stay vigilant and flag up any concerns with their local stations”.
Cats have also been used in the past as bait for dog fights.
In 2007 the SSPCA revealed a case in Aberdeen where individuals were taking cats from the streets.
Speaking at the time, he said: “Dog fighting has been a long-standing problem but the involvement of other domestic animals is a sickening new twist.
“We had an allegation in Aberdeen that a group of men walked their three Staffordshire Terriers around the streets hunting for cats.
“When they found one, their dogs were said to have been set on it and the fight was recorded on mobile phones – it was horrific stuff.”