(TELEGRAPH) — Thousands of dogs are being stolen every year, many by organised gangs, and being sold on the black market in a trade increasingly driven by the Internet.

As the full scale of “dognapping” in England is revealed, experts say an estimated 3,500 thefts were reported last year — an increase of around 17 per cent on the previous 12 months.

While some dogs are stolen from kennels and outhouses, thieves are getting increasingly bold — with animals being taken as they are being walked by their owners, and others being specifically targeted in burglaries.

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