Hard-up thieves are targeting family pets in an attempt to make some “easy money”.
A vet has warned that small breeds are particularly vulnerable to a rising tide of thefts as they are easy to steal and can be sold on for as much as £200.
Other bigger breeds such as Staffordshire bull terriers and boxers are also being stolen for dog fighting.
Wayne Smith, a vet and owner of Alder Veterinary Practice in Bourne Road, Spalding, said: “There seems to be a rising trend, here and countrywide, of pedigree dogs being stolen to sell.
“It’s often the little ones, such as Yorkshire terriers or cocker spaniels, because they are often easier to run off with and can be quite valuable.
“In these tough economic times it can be easy money as they can sell these dogs on for about £200 by making up a story about how they need to rehome it.
“Often the thieves will travel long distances, so a dog will be stolen from around here but be sold on hundreds of miles away.
“It can be heartbreaking for the owners.”
Mr Smith (pictured) said microchipping was a valuable way of ensuring a stolen dog could be returned if it was ever found, but that might only happen if a new owner who bought the dog in good faith went to re-register it.
But, he said, prevention was better than cure and suggested dog owners should “keep their pet safe as if it were a child” – not letting it out of their sight in public places for example.