Dogs stolen and sold on black market
A pet investigator claims a "dognapping" operation involving tradies, teens and drug addicts are seeing pooches stolen from suburban Aussie homes and sold for up to $15k..
Kirilly Cull, the woman behind Queensland's largest pet lost and found group, says breeds such as Staffies, French Bulldogs and Cavoodles are particularly at risk from thieves who trespass on properties specifically to take dogs.
She says the thieves either sell the animals to unsuspecting pet owners on websites such as Gumtree or sell them on the black market for breeding or fighting.
"It's all about money and greed," she told news.com.au. "Some of these dogs can sell from anywhere between $3000 to $15,000 on the black market.
"It happens all the time and it's not just Staffies, there are lots of breeds at risk."
Ms Cull, who works to rescue lost and stolen pets on the Gold Coast, said the nefarious operations often begin when pet-owners allow legitimate tradies into their homes or open the door to a delivery person.
"There are a lot of good tradies out there, but there are some who have drug problems, debts or just need a bit of extra cash so they scope out what you've got," she said.
Ms Cull's pet dog was stabbed in the gut - and luckily survived - after trespassers allegedly broke into her home.
She believes her pet was scoped out by people she let in months earlier.
In other cases, she said burglars simply stuff dogs into their knapsacks as they rifle through homes.
The warning comes as a Brisbane woman, Sara Whomsley claims she had to pay a "ransom" for her 14-week-old puppy after it was stolen from her backyard.
On her Facebook page, she described how her black Staffordshire Terrier puppy, Gertie, was taken from her Moorooka home by a man who told tradies at her home he was a family friend while she and her husband were at work.
She posted messages on Facebook and Gumtree saying she was "heartbroken" and appealed for information.
On Monday last week, she received an "unusual" message on Gumtree late at night.
"A guy messaged me to say he thought he'd bought my dog - from 'some rich guy' in a park," she said.
"He wanted to return her to me but he needed to be reimbursed the $1250 he paid for her PLUS the reward I suggested I would give in my ad on Gumtree."
She ended up taking $1300, her husband and two of her sons to a nearby park, where she met the teenage boy - who asked her to cover the money he'd allegedly paid for the dog.
"He handed her over and I kinda just said 'nup mate'.... I'm not reimbursing you," she said. "Don't buy dogs from strangers in parks. And then he cried."
She says the boy accepted the $300 reward and Gertie is now safe and sound.
Pet investigator, Ms Cull claims this tactic of using young teenagers to claim they've bought the dog and then demand a reward plus whatever they "paid" for the dog is a very common tactic.
She said last week she was contacted by a woman from South Australia who said she'd bought a French Bulldog "puppy" on Gumtree for $3500.
"She never went to visit the owner, they just told her it was going to be shipped," she said.
"A few days later, a guy turns up in a ute with the dog. It was one-and-a-half years old and it was just dumped there," she said. "She called us to say she wanted to try and get her money back because it wasn't a puppy. This sort of stuff happens daily."
Ms Cull believes this type of activity will continue unabated because thieves see dogs as a commodity they can sell on like an iPad or a TV, rather than a sentient being or a family pet.
She says the pain the thieves inflict on the pet owners - as well as the trauma dealt to the animals themselves - is massive.
"There's been a lot of research to show that the loss of a pet in this way can bring people into a space of post-traumatic stress. It's a major cause of heartbreak for owners," she said.
Now, she believes laws needs to change across Australia to recognise pets as "sentient beings" - like New Zealand does - and give stronger punishments for those stealing pets.
Despite, Ms Whomsley's story and Ms Cull's claims about the widespread theft of dogs to sell them, Queensland Police says an organised "dognapping ring" is not on its radar.
"There is no known trend in relation to any organised thefts of dogs to sell them," a spokeswoman for the force said.
"Theft of dogs is stealing which is an offence. As such, matters of theft are investigated thoroughly by Queensland Police Service."
She added that if a member of the public suspects their dog has been stolen they should contact police.
"To deter people from entering your address and removing property, QPS advises you to keep
gates locked and to keep them in good repair," she said.
"For safety and security reasons the main entry and exit areas to your home should be well lit. A sensor light will activate even when you are not home and can act as a deterrent as it increases the risk and likelihood of being seen."
Do you believe your pet's been stolen and sold on? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org