Police Warning to Dog Owners - Criminals dressing up as RSPCA workers target pets
Catherine Hussain, of St Austell, whose puppy, Waffle, was stolen at knifepoint in St Austell in 2019, is backing calls to make pet theft a specific criminal offence
3rd March 2021
By Natasha Swift
“Be vigilant” is the message from police to dog owners in St Austell as the surging demand for the animals sees criminals target beloved pets in the area.
Last week the Voice revealed how thieves have been dressing up as RSPCA workers and approaching dog walkers in the Roche area, claiming they believe the pet is stolen in an attempt to steal the animal.
Another dog walker in St Austell said she had been approached by a man asking questions about her cocker spaniel near Slades Road. After declining to answer the man, she claims he continued to follow her until he fled in a different direction when she came across another person.
St Austell’s police inspector, Ed Gard, has warned dog walkers to be on their guard. He told the Voice: “My message to the public is to be vigilant and if approached asked to see the persons identification et cetera, and if possible contact RSPCA to check any activity they are undertaking in the area.”
Police also said there had been reports of people taking a keen interest in people walking their dogs in the Portscatho area. According to the charity DogLost there has been a 170% increase in dog thefts since lockdown started. Dog and puppy sales have increased over the last year and the demand for dogs has risen, increasing prices, but currently pet theft isn’t a crime in its own right.
A petition has now been launched calling on the government to make dog theft a specific criminal offence, with eight years minimum sentencing and a fine of at least £5,000. The petition, which has more than 200,000 signature, says: “Dogs are like members of the family to many people and current laws do not reflect this.
Dogs are a support network for so many, a family member, a lifeline.” Catherine Hussain, whose labradoodle puppy, Waffle, was stolen at knifepoint in St Austell in 2019, is backing calls to make pet theft a specific criminal offence and change the law to treat stolen dogs as animals rather than possessions.
Waffle was taken by a knife-wielding robber while being walked by Catherine in the Belmont Road area at around 7am on Monday, December 23, 2019. The theft sparked a major police hunt and attracted the attention of thousands of people from around the world after a massive response on social media to Cathrine’s desperate appeal. But Waffle has still not be reunited with his family.
Catherine, 55, told the Voice: “I think it should definitely be a jail term, regardless of the circumstances. The problem at the moment is the price of dogs. It’s gone absolutely stupid.
“That instigates people to go out there and steal what they can. They don’t give a monkeys about how it affects myself or anyone else who’s been put into that position. Waffle was the be all and end all for me.
He was my family. “That day my whole world turned upside down. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, I have nightmares, I am on antidepressants and have been signed off work. That’s what the scum don’t see, what they have done.
“I am petrified to go outside now. It’s a case of they see what they want and they are going to take it regardless of how they are going to get it. They have ripped my baby away. Things are out of hand now and this needs to be dealt with in a severe way.
“Until breeders start bringing down prices for dogs this won’t stop. There should be a cap on how much people can charge for puppies as it has gone way out of control. Until someone steps up and says enough is enough and there’s a prison sentence then it’ll carry on. “There has got to be some sort of deterrent.