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Dog theft Kidnapped Cocker Spaniel escapes from crime gang's 4x4 after garda chase

Vehicle recovered in Co Cavan is linked to a Clondalkin-based crime family

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Cocker Spaniel. Stock photo

Cocker Spaniel. Stock photo

Cocker Spaniel. Stock photo

Gardai have recovered a 4x4 vehicle which was driven into a river by an organised dognapping gang who are suspected of a spate of thefts of dogs across the country in the past year.

The vehicle is linked to a Clondalkin-based crime family and it was recovered yesterday in Co Cavan by gardaí who are investigating the attempted theft of a Cocker Spaniel dog and a number of violent incidents surrounding the crime.

The drama began shortly after 9pm on Friday when four men in the 4x4 trespassed on a property in the Cootehill area and stole the dog, which is said to be valued at around €3,000.

The owners of the property gave chase after witnessing their beloved pet being taken but the vehicle got away.

Then at around 12.50am on Saturday, uniformed gardaí on patrol in Ballyjamesduff came across the vehicle and attempted to stop it.

The 4x4 rammed the Garda patrol car at least two times and then the occupants of the vehicle got out and threw iron bars at it in the Kilquilly area of the border county.

As the unarmed officers struggled to deal with the escalating situation, the criminals pulled rocks across the rural road to delay the patrol car from catching up with them.

The vehicle then sped away but investigations have established that shortly after this it was driven into a nearby field and sank in a river.

It is understood that the criminal gang had gotten spooked because both the gardaí and the dog owner had obtained the registration of the vehicle.

The criminals then fled the area and were picked up by an associate who was driving a dark-coloured car.

No-one was injured in the incident and there have been no arrests in the case so far but officers are following a definite line of enquiry.

In a happy twist, the dog that was stolen managed to escape and make his way home to his shocked but relieved owners.

Senior sources say that the gang behind the theft have been travelling the country stealing dogs, a practice which has escalated since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Arrests are likely in the case once the jeep they were travelling in is forensically examined.

Gardaí have highlighted the growing problem of dog theft, which is proving to be extremely lucrative for gangs, and they have outlined six key “tips to beat dog thieves”.

These include getting your dog microchipped if not already done; keep your dog in sight; consider installing CCTV; don’t tie up your dog; report theft immediately; and buy from a trusted source.

The Department of Justice is currently examining the issue and whether there is scope to provide additional provisions to existing legislation, specifically-related to "companion" animals.

Earlier this month, a woman whose six Cardigan Corgi puppies were stolen from her home in Kilkenny city made a public appeal for information.

Gardaí have been conducting an anti-dog-theft operation for some time. It involves checkpoints and searches and has resulted in many dogs being rescued and returned to their owners.

There has been a number of dog seizures at Dublin Port over the past year.

Well over 200 dogs were stolen nationwide last year but gardaí have had some successes in dealing with the escalating problem, including the seizure last August of 32 dogs that are believed to have been stolen, with an estimated value in excess of €120,000.

The 32 dogs seized near Swords included chihuahuas, pugs, a Jack Russell and dachshunds.

Speaking in the Dáil last year, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that she was "very conscious of the huge distress that can be caused by the crime of dog theft and the strong emotional bonds that owners have with their pets".

Minister McEntee said legislation in place to tackle the issue includes the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013; the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1965; and the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001.

Minister McEntee stated that information has been disseminated to the Crime Prevention Officers Network countrywide specifically dealing with the topic of dog thefts.

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