Police believe south dognapping cases 'gang' related
A series of pet thefts across the south are being linked to an organised dognapping gang, police said.
Incidents over the New Year period in Hampshire and the Thames Valley are being investigated by officers who are warning owners to be extra vigilant.
Cocker spaniels have been stolen from their kennels in rural locations in the last week.
Thames Valley Police also dealt with 15 separate incidents across its force during December.
Ch Insp Simon Dodds, from Hampshire Police, is investigating three thefts of cocker spaniels worth thousands of pounds in Bullington, near Andover and Owlesbury, near Winchester last Sunday and on New Year's Eve.
He confirmed the force received four reports of thefts throughout December.
He said: "There appears to be a group of organised individuals out there specifically targeting working dogs.
"We've had some really useful information come into us from members of the public and we would urge them to continue doing so.
"We would ask people to be extra vigilant and also use common sense if you are buying a dog.
"Ensure the dog is micro-chipped, visit them in their home environment and check its history very carefully, otherwise you might be buying stolen property unwittingly."
Thames Valley Police is appealing for information over the theft of an adult cocker spaniel on New Year's Eve from locked kennels in Padworth, near Reading.
PC Gary Hemmings said: "These thefts appear to be carried out by people who know what they are doing and are targeting specific breeds.
"That gives us an idea of what we can look out for and where we can focus the attention of our inquiries."
Nik Oakley, from appeal charity DogLost.co.uk, is urging owners to take extra precautions.
She said: "They need to have very secure premises and also when exercising dogs, not to take the same route every day.
"There is evidence to suggest that owners are being watched and targeted. Owners with large kennels in rural areas should also consider installing CCTV."