A COUPLE are taking drastic action after nearly losing their beloved pet. Melvyn and Gillian White believe that Alfie, a 10-month-old West Highland terrier, fell into the clutches of a dognapper.

When a white van pulled into the drive of their bungalow at Armsworth Park, near Alresford, on Monday, Mrs White, 53, thought it was her husband - and so did Alfie and their other pet, a four-year-old Jack Russell called Jack, because they both ran out to greet him.

However, Mrs White realised something was wrong when she saw the van leave and Jack came back into the house on his own.

Realising that Alfie was nowhere to be found, she drove in the direction the van had taken and came across Alfie, slightly bruised but otherwise unharmed, in a lane about a mile away.

"I thought it was a piece of white paper flapping about but, as I got closer, I realised it was Alfie. I nearly squeezed him to death," said Mrs White.

Her husband, who had rushed home from work, was also overjoyed to see Alfie, who had been a present from the couple's three children. "I cried my eyes out," he said.

They reported the incident to the police, who told them they had been lucky to get Alfie back. Mrs White said she had no idea that dognapping was such big business in the area.

She believes Alfie was dumped when the thief found he had been castrated and was of no use for breeding.

The couple are now urging other pet-owners to be extra vigilant.

"We went through hell. We were lucky to get Alfie back but all sorts of things race through your mind," said Mrs White. "I thought of him shut up in a shed, cold and hungry.

"We are now putting up security cameras and I won't let Alfie out of my sight. I won't get a pedigree dog again," she added.