Hot dogs: what soaring puppy thefts tell us about Britain today

With a single dog being sold for as much as £7,500, a dognapping crime wave has swept the country since the start of lockdown. It is a revealing insight into 2020’s great canine obsession

Annie was – or, we can only hope, is – an uncommonly good dog. The three-year-old cocker spaniel is so calm, says her owner Darren Neal, that she is certified as a therapy dog. For hours, she would revel in the company of toddlers at the two nurseries Neal and his wife, Melissa Murfet, run near their home in Cambridgeshire.

Annie had formed an especially close bond with Neal’s youngest daughter, Beau, who is also three. They had become inseparable during the long weeks of lockdown. Beau enjoyed reading books to Annie. “She’s probably the most laid-back dog I’ve ever met,” Neal says. “She would just let you cradle her in your arms for as long as you needed.”

We used to get an alert about one dog theft a day and now it’s nine or 10 in England alone

Spaniels appear to be in particular demand. Mysterious chalk marks left on garden gates appear to match spaniel homes

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