Two dogs are missing after thieves drove off in their professional walker’s van.
The van, which was stolen around 1pm yesterday in Barnet, north London was later found abandoned with one dog inside.
However, two other dogs remain missing and are believed to have been taken by the thieves.
Melina Georgiou, pictured, has been left devastated by the theft of her one-year-old Maltipoo, Nala, from her dog walker in Barnet, north London
Nala, pictured, was taken from the back of the dog walker’s van in Barnet, north London
Owner of one of the dogs, Melina Georgiou has launched an appeal on Facebook for the return of her pet Maltipoo, Nala.
Ms Georgiou, 27, trusted the safety of her pet with a professional dog walking service. However, as the dog walker went to another client’s house in Barnet, north London, the thieves drove off in the van.
Nala, and a second dog, Chester, who has cancer, are still missing.
According to a post of Facebook, Ms Georgiou wrote: ‘Our beautiful little 1 year old maltipoo called Nala was stolen this afternoon while the dogs were being dropped home from a walk by our dog walker.
‘As the dog walker walked out of the car to drop one of the dogs home IN BARNET NORTH LONDON, someone jumped in her van and drove off with Nala and two others.’
Ms Georgiou told The Star: ‘I cannot BELIEVE the support not only from locals but from the whole entire country. It’s been absolutely overwhelming, we’ve had over 11k shares on Facebook alone, hundreds and hundreds on Instagram and Twitter and floods of loving messages or support and kind words which has been so motivating to never give up hope that we’ll find her.
Ms Georgiou released an appeal on Facebook for people to help her find her stolen dog
‘t’s been a horrible day but everyone’s local support has been a beautiful thing.’
Organised criminals are turning to dog theft amid a rise in demand for puppies during lockdown, police have warned.
Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said the increase in potential profits had made the illegal trade more attractive to hardened lawbreakers.
The charity DogLost saw reported pet thefts rise from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.
Ms Blackman, who is the NPCC lead for acquisitive crime, said: ‘Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners.
‘Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.
‘During the coronavirus pandemic, criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period.
At the time of her theft, Nala, pictured, was wearing a pink coat. She has been microchipped according to Ms Georgiou
‘The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.’
She warned pet owners to be careful posting pictures of their new puppy on social media, and for buyers to consider where the animal had come from.
Recent cases of suspected dog theft include the discovery of several English bulldog puppies at a home in Wigan.
Greater Manchester Police arrested three people after a member of the public saw someone carrying seven puppies into the house.
In Wales, Dyfed-Powys Police found 80 dogs at a property in Carmarthenshire that are thought to have been stolen.
Two people have been arrested and so far 30 of the animals have been returned to their owners.