United Kingdom

Pet owner is left with black eye after being attacked by dognappers who tried to steal her pug

Rhianna Gardner was left with a bruised cheek following the attack in Colchester, Essex

A young woman was left with a black eye after being attacked by dognappers who tried to steal her pug amid a worrying rise in canine crimes sweeping the UK.

Rhianna Gardner was walking her dog in woodland in Colchester, Essex, last Thursday at 8pm when she was targeted.

She bravely put up a fight and managed to thwart the theft but was left with bruising to her cheek.

Rhianna said the dognappers 'picked on the wrong person' but warned other female dog owners to be on guard.  

Essex Police have been made aware.

Rhianna took to Facebook to post about her terrifying ordeal. 

She wrote: 'Any young girls walking their dogs at night alone please think again.

'I was attacked last night at 8pm in daylight walking through a small open woods in Colchester.

'They tried to take my dog but they picked the wrong person. We are both okay.

'Ladies make sure you are not walking alone. Police are aware.'

And other social media users were quick to comment on Rhianna's experience.

One wrote: 'Thank God you're both okay. Well done for standing up for yourself.'

Another added: 'Well done you for fighting back. I would go crazy as well if anyone tried to take mine. It is a scary world out there at the moment.

She bravely put up a fight and managed to thwart the theft of her pet pug (pictured) but warned other female dog owners to be on guard

'I always go out with someone else, please be careful next time hun.

'Maybe ask someone to come with you or join a dog walking club, really sad when you can't just nip out for some fresh air with your little one in fear of it being stolen.'

And a third said: 'You are a brave girl, happy you are both safe now.'  

Essex Police has been approached for comment.

The attack follows a spike in dog theft cases in the UK during the pandemic - with incidents increasing by almost a fifth amid the coronavirus lockdown as soaring demand saw prices for some breeds almost doubled.

The pet owner said she has made Essex Police aware of the incident before taking to Facebook to post about her terrifying ordeal

In a Facebook post, she began: 'She wrote: 'Any young girls walking their dogs at night alone please think again'

Staffordshire bull terriers, chihuahuas and cocker spaniels are among the most sought-after breeds being targeted by dognappers who are looking to cash in during the pandemic.

Google searches for 'buy a puppy' increased by 166 per cent after the UK-wide lockdown, announced on 23 March, meant millions of people would be working from home.

Thieves recently stole an entire litter of seven cocker spaniel puppies, valued at £2,000 each, along with their mother from a caravan in Cambridge.

Average asking price for some of UK's most sought after breeds 
Breed  Before lockdown After lockdown % increase 
Dachshunds £973 £1,838 89 
Chow Chows £1,119 £1,872 67 
Pugs £684 £1,064 56 
French Bulldogs £1,251 £1,905 52 
English Bulldogs £1,637 £2,140 31 
Source: Dogs Trust 

And, last month, Nala - a cross between a Maltese and a poodle known as a Maltipoo - was stolen in north London after crooks hijacked the van for a professional dog walking service.

But it is thought that Staffordshire bull terriers remain the most popular breed of dog to be targeted by thieves, according to a survey from Direct Line.

Dogs Trust's Chief Executive, Owen Sharp, previously told MailOnline: 'We understand that dog owners are increasingly concerned about dog theft.

'Demand for dogs is at an all-time high and prices for some of the UK's most desirable dog breeds are at their highest in three years, and possibly at an all-time high, with the costs for some dogs increasing month-on-month since lockdown began last year.

'Given the high demand for dogs in recent months and the increase in prices, it is no wonder criminals are taking advantage of the situation.'

Home Secretary Priti Patel is looking to bring in tougher sentences as the maximum at the moment is seven years in prison.

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