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Dog-stealing penalties should be same as for kidnaps, insists group

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Gerard McMahon, of Carrignavar, Co Cork, is reunited with his stolen dog Jake, found in Limerick by Garda Shane Hayes

Gerard McMahon, of Carrignavar, Co Cork, is reunited with his stolen dog Jake, found in Limerick by Garda Shane Hayes

Gerard McMahon, of Carrignavar, Co Cork, is reunited with his stolen dog Jake, found in Limerick by Garda Shane Hayes

Animal lovers are demanding tougher penalties for dog- nappers after a surge in pet thefts across the country.

One group of pet owners staged a street protest after warning that the penalties faced by dog-nappers are too lenient and are largely ignored by criminal gangs engaged in the lucrative black market for stolen animals.

Pet Theft Awareness Waterford (PTAW) staged a demonstration to highlight the crisis.

Forged

In recent weeks, gardaí have seized dogs amid fears they had been stolen in Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Tipperary.

In one case, nearly a dozen animals were recovered.

In another, gardaí recovered two dogs in Limerick that had been stolen weeks earlier in Cork.

The men found with the dogs insisted they belonged to them and even produced forged ownership documents.

One dog was reunited with its owner, who said his family had been left heartbroken by the theft.

Owners of valuable dog breeds - which have been specifically targeted - were warned to take precautions with the security of their pets.

PTAW staged a protest in Waterford demanding pet thieves face tougher sanctions.

Organiser John Kelly said pets played an important role in the lives of their owners, and that is not being reflected in the way thefts are treated.

"At the minute, dogs are deemed as inanimate objects - the same as if someone went in and stole a piece of furniture," he told radio station WLRFM.

"Yes, there are prison sentences, but they're not being enforced, it's not penalised."

Pet owners are worried that criminals convicted of dog- napping largely face monetary fines.

They say the penalties are dwarfed by the money to be made from the black market in stolen animals.

"We want it changed so that it's the same as kidnapping," Mr Kelly said.

"We want harder penalties, we want the Government to get on board to come down on these criminals that are making money from animal thefts."

The spate of thefts has been underpinned by the black market for stolen dogs, animals required for dog fighting and for both Irish and foreign puppy farms.

Some high-demand breeds can fetch up to €2,000 or €3,000.

Gardaí have urged dog owners to take every possible precaution with their pets and to review security measures around their homes, with advice available from local anti-crime officers.