DOG owners in Castlederg are being warned that “bunchers” have been casing the area with a view to stealing pets.
Involved in the theft and illegal trade of animals such as cats and dogs, the so-called bunchers have recently left their tell-tale marks on local properties.
Blue streaks of paint have appeared on several local properties in the locality, including that of Sophie Georgina (Harpur) from Castlederg.
Posting a picture to social media on Saturday of the blue mark daubed on her property, the local lady said, “Just a wee word of warning to anyone in the Castlederg area with dogs, keep a close eye and dogs safely inside or yard locked up. This was sprayed on our gate we think last night as we only noticed it this morning, dogs were unsettled through the night which was not like them. Seen posts like this a while back but forgot all about it until we seen this today. Safe to say it is now painted over and gates locked up.”
According to Tara Lafferty from the Animals in Donegal Aid Sanctuary, dog owners in the local area are right to be concerned.
Outlining how the bunchers work, Ms Lafferty says they are currently on the hunt for dogs for breeding purposes ahead of the festive period.
“At the moment there are blatant marks on people’s fences and doors in the Castlederg area,” she said. “This needs to be highlighted because people’s pets are in danger.
“Bunchers travel around and suss out an area, delivering leaflets or pretending to be Jehovah’s Witnesses. Basically, they’re seeing how many dogs are in an area.
“Properties are marked where there are dogs and then afterwards a van will go around and pick the dogs up.
“People often think their dogs have gone missing but they’ve been stolen.”
Ms Lafferty further recounted how dogs that are stolen can either be sold as pets for a little as £20, reserved for breeding or in some cases, depending on the breed, they are used in dog fighting circles.
She also noted that when a person can’t keep their dog anymore, it’s advisable not to offer the pet ‘free to a good home’. In these instances, there’s an increasing risk the unwanted pets can end up in maltreated within the illegal trade.
“Some of the dogs we find would send shivers up your spine, they’re in bits,” she continued. “And they’re the lucky ones.
“All breeds are sought after for different reasons… this is a nasty and enormous money making ring with money grabbing criminals.
“People in these areas have to be very, very careful.”
The sanctuary worker suggested that the best way for a person to protect their pet, is to never leave it out of their sight.
“Don’t let it roam, or they’ll be gone” she said. “Have the dog microchipped and registered.
“And if you see any suspicious people, ask for ID and follow up on that to check. Most of all, report anything suspicious to police.”