LOCAL victims have used this month's Dog Theft Awareness Day to highlight the growing epidemic that is sweeping the UK.

The Stolen And Missing Pets Alliance (SAMPA) has held a Dog Theft Awareness Day for the past three years.

But the problem isn't going away.

Officials at the charity believe as many as 60 dogs are being snatched every week across England, Scotland and Wales.

Georgie and Ed Bell from near Jedburgh have campaigned tirelessly since their two Border Terriers were stolen on Friday, December 28.

Despite having an active Facebook group, with members sharing details of the missing dogs across the country, and offering a £5,000 reward there have been no major breakthroughs in finding Ruby and Beetle.

Last weekend supporters of the campaign to find the dogs held gatherings at Bamburgh beach, Portobello beach, Gravesend and Pontefract.

Ahead of Dog Theft Awareness Day on Thursday, March 14, Georgie told us: "We are devastated to lose Ruby and Beetle and pray every day that they will be found.

"The support we have received to date has been fantastic and we have a £5,000 reward for any information which leads to finding the dogs.

"Someone, somewhere must know something and I beg them to get in touch with me.

"I am quite literally staggered by the amount of dogs which are stolen on a weekly basis but I will not give up hope that our dogs will be returned to us."

SAMPA hope Dog Theft Awareness Day will act as a warning for all owners to be cautious and vigilant.

A spokeswoman for the charity added: "Dogs are stolen from gardens, houses, parks, kennels, outside shops and cars.

"Nowhere is safe.

"Any breed is stolen but designer toy breeds and gun dogs are particular targets. Thieves even steal litters of puppies.

"Reward or ransom for return can be demanded but most dogs are sold on to unsuspecting new owners, with some being used for breeding and worse dog fighting."

Only last week a Galashiels man had to fight off two thieves who attempted to snatch his pedigree pug while it was being walked.

SAMPA patron Dr Daniel Allen raised a petition calling for pet theft to be reclassified as a crime in its own right, attracting over 100,000 signatures inside four months.

For further advice on protecting your pet visit www.stolenandmissingpetsalliance.co.uk/dog-theft-awareness-day/

Anyone with information about the theft of Ruby and Beetle, can contact Georgie Bell on 07989 513946.