A RECORD number of pets and farm animals have been reported stolen in the past year, including 22 lobsters, 350 birds and eight ducks.
Nearly 800 animals worth more than £45,000 were snatched across Edinburgh and the Lothians between March 2010 and March 2011, compared to 400 the previous year. All but two of the animals remain missing.
Other pets and livestock taken include 105 sheep from a field, a parrot and a pigeon from an aviary and five goldfish from a garden pond. A cocker spaniel worth £2000 and a Staffordshire bull terrier were returned to their owners.
In the past six months 408 animals have been stolen, including six pink Danish pigs, five tropical fish, 200 pheasants and a Welsh pony.
Overall more than £100,000 worth of animals have gone missing in the last two years, including a £10,000 pedigree greyhound.
Today Scottish SPCA bosses said the rise in thefts was a “worrying trend”.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “This increase in animal thefts is a worrying trend and is not just limited to the Lothians but nationwide. It’s difficult to say why there has been such a rise, but in our experience animals tend to be stolen for breeding purposes or because they can be sold on for profit.
“There have been very worrying reports in recent times of cats, small dogs and puppies being stolen to be used as bait animals for dog fighting.
“It is very important that pet owners supervise their animals when they are outdoors, especially if they are very young. We also recommend that people microchip their pets as soon as possible so that, should they go missing, there is a much greater chance of the pet being identified and returned to them.”
Most of the animals were taken from fields or back gardens, but a large number of dogs were grabbed after being tied up outside shops. Some pets were snatched from homes when the owners were out or asleep, and pet shops and barns were also regularly targeted.
One owner – whose Russian blue cat, Max, was caught on CCTV being stolen in July – said he had been more careful since his nine-year-old pet was returned.
Malcolm Oswald’s pet was stolen from outside his Fountainbridge home before being mysteriously returned nearly three weeks later.
He said: “I honestly didn’t think I’d get him back but now that I have I’m a wee bit more careful. It’s difficult because there is little you can reasonably do if you want your pet to have a good life. You can’t keep a cat indoors, just like you can’t with many other pets.”
Other recent high-profile thefts include a stolen husky which was taken from outside a supermarket in Livingston. Three-year-old Aldo was snatched in May after a man and a woman were seen petting the dog before leading it away from the post it was tied to. The pet was later returned.
In December last year, two Mississippi mud turtles, two bearded dragons and 24 incubated lizard eggs were stolen from a house in Magdalene Drive. They have not been found.
A police spokesman said: “Any rise in crimes of this nature must be treated seriously and officers will thoroughly investigate when a report of theft is made. Anyone found to be responsible will be robustly dealt with.”