Avon and Somerset police reassure dog owners over 'thefts'
Police and animal welfare charities have reassured pet owners concerned about dog thefts.
Messages circulating on Facebook about a white van being driven around by someone looking for dogs to steal are thought to be a hoax.
Avon and Somerset police says there have been no official reports of dogs being stolen in the area, with charity DogLost reiterating that message.
Over the past week the Somerset Guardian has received a number of calls from concerned pet owners desperate to find out what was happening after the rumours began to circulate.
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Sgt Geoff Cannon, from Radstock Police Station, confirmed that officers had also received a number of calls from owners concerned about dog snatching but as yet have not had any reports of dogs actually being taken.
Callers claimed they had been told dogs had been stolen from secure kennels, from outside shops and from gardens in Midsomer Norton, Radstock and Keynsham.
DogLost helpline, which tries to reunite lost dogs with their owners, said although there had been a rise in the number of dogs going missing in the south west over the past 12 months there have been few reports of pets being stolen.
Nik Oakley, corporate communications adviser at Dog- Lost, said working breeds such as cocker spaniels were most at risk, with trained gundogs selling for thousands of pounds or being taken for breeding.
Mrs Oakley had a number of suggestions for animal lovers who are worried that their dog may be stolen.
Owners are being advised to get their pets microchipped to make it easier for them to be traced. It is suggested the times and locations of walks are varied and that dogs are not left tied up outside shops or unattended in vehicles.
She also advised kennel owners to install CCTV and to be aware of anyone watching their premises.