A FAMILY dog was held for a £500 ransom after being snatched outside its Hampshire home, the Daily Echo can reveal.

Now police have launched a hunt for the dognappers after Buttons the cocker spaniel was found tied up and for sale 50 miles away.

It comes after the Daily Echo revealed how dog thieves are increasingly stealing fancy breeds across Hampshire for breeding or even fighting.

Now, following the latest theft one family, who live near Romsey , have spoken of their relief after they were convinced they may never see their twoyear- old chocolate brown dog again.

“It has been devastating, she is very much a loved dog,” said her owner, who the Daily Echo is not naming.

“It is just shocking that it can actually happen.

“This is the sort of thing that happens to someone else.”

The “friendly” pet vanished last Friday afternoon near the entrance to the family’s garden.

She said: “I have no idea what happened. One minute she was there and the next she was gone.

“I knew she had been taken because she is just not the sort of dog that wanders off – it would be out of character.”

But hours after pinning up missing dog posters she was called by a mystery caller demanding £500 for Buttons’ return.

She said: “They must have been waiting for a poster to go up so they could call the number.”

Her husband decided to turn detective and arrange a meeting, although just to observe who turned up.

He then saw the dog which he recognised as Buttons with two women but instead of challenging them he passed their registration plate to the police.

Officers tracked the vehicle to an address in Aldermaston, Berkshire, which they raided but the dog was not there.

The family’s nightmare only ended after a member of the public called a dog warden after challenging a man who was selling the dog which was tied up, also near Aldermaston.

Reunited with an exhausted and hungry but otherwise unharmed Buttons, the family have vowed to be extra vigilant.

Today dog rescue groups have renewed their warning to owners.

DogLost founder Jayne Hayes said she has seen a 200 per cent increase in dog thefts in the last year.

She said: “Dognapping is rife at the moment in the south. We would say to owners to be vigilant because your dog may not be safe – even in your own garden.”

Last night Hampshire police confirmed they were investigating but have not arrested anyone.


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