SEVEN tiny puppies each worth hundreds of pounds have been snatched from a West Lothian home.
The young shih tzu litter, who were just eight weeks old, and two fully-grown lurchers were taken from kennels in the back garden of a home in Glendevon Park, Winchburgh.
Their owner was devastated to return from work to find the dogs had disappeared.
Thieves are suspected to have struck between 7.30am and 6pm on Wednesday and police are urging anyone who saw anything suspicious to get in touch immediately.
The puppies are tan and white in colour, and are worth around £650 each, while the lurchers are working dogs with pale gold rough coats.
Their owner was too upset to speak to the News when contacted yesterday.
Pc Rachel Royan said: “At eight weeks old the puppies are too young to have left their mother, who was not taken, and the owners are extremely concerned for their welfare.
“We would urge anyone who saw anything suspicious in or around Glendevon Park yesterday to please get in touch as we are keen to reunite them with their owners.”
The concerns have been echoed by Dogs Trust, which campaigns to raise awareness of puppy thefts.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “Dogs Trust is extremely concerned to hear that a litter of puppies was stolen, especially at a young age when they should still be with their mother.
“Unfortunately, when a dog or puppy is stolen we suspect those responsible wish to breed from or sell the dogs in a bid to make money. Smaller breeds such as shih tzus are extremely desirable and can be sold online for a considerable sum.”
Gangs most commonly target trained working dogs, such as lurchers or Labradors, although other popular types such as Chihuahuas and pugs also feature highly in the list of targeted breeds.
It is thought that as many as 65 dogs are stolen every day across the UK, and a surge in pet thefts has also been linked to dog fighting.
There have also been a rising number of reports of gangs using discreet signals to mark homes which have valuable pedigree breeds and returning to steal the animals at a later time. This includes small marks on fences, gates and kerb stones.
The Dogs Trust spokeswoman said: “While we cannot comment on individual cases, we would urge dog owners to be vigilant when leaving their dogs unattended.
“Come April 2016 it will be compulsory to microchip your dog. Dogs Trust welcomes this change in legislation as a microchip increases the chances of a stolen dog being identified and returned to its owner.”
Anyone with information is urged to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.