Dog owners are being warned to look out for strange chalk marks outside houses as they could be linked to a spate of dog thefts.
Worried pet owners fear thieves are leaving white chalks marks on brickwork, gates or wooden fences outside homes - to show which ones have dogs worth stealing,
There have been reports of dog thefts all over the UK where the chalk markings have been discovered, most recently, a Rottweiler was reported stolen from a house in Gloucestershire shortly after 5am yesterday (Sunday, August 30).
A spokesman for Gloucestershire Constabulary said: "Chalk markings outside properties is something which has cropped up from time to time throughout the country and there have been a number of theories about who is responsible, including utility services (gas/water), children and even running clubs marking out a route.
"We have no evidence at this time to suggest that the drawings are linked to any organised criminal activity.
"We would, of course, advise anyone who has concerns or information about criminal activity in their community to contact their local neighbourhood policing team."
Whether or not the chalk marks are related to the thefts, the threat of dog theft is growing throughout the South West.
A spokesman for Dog Theft Action said: "The chalking has been a long standing rumour for many years but we can neither prove or disprove this theory.
"But dog theft is most definitely on the rise in all areas and it is important to safeguard yourself and your pets.
"We aim to draw public attention to dog theft and provide vital information to the victims of dog theft to assist them in their search."
Blue Cross have provided the following advice on how to keep your dog safe from thieves:
· Make sure you can keep an eye on your dog when they are in the garden and that all fences and gates are secure and in good repair.
· Prevent your dog from sitting in the window or behind a glass door in view of any passers-by
· Don’t leave your dog alone in the car or tied outside a shop.
· Take clear photographs of your pet from different angles to help prove ownership if needed.
· Train your dog to come back to you when called if in a strange place or if in doubt they will return keep them on an extended lead.
· Beware of strangers asking questions about your dog.
· Make sure you pet has a microchip to increase the chance of being reunited and don’t forget to update your contact details if you move home – now a legal requirement for dogs.
· If your pet is stolen report the crime to the police.
· Contact your local animal warden and rescue centres in case your pet escapes or is dumped.
· Use social media to get images of your stolen pet in the public domain