A dog breeder who had eight puppies and six adults stolen says the theft of the animals she’s reared since birth was like ‘losing her children’.
Justine Watts, 47, a licensed dog breeder who owns a six-acre property in Upwell, Norfolk, was left devastated when 14 dogs were stolen from her property over lockdown.
The breeder owns Cockerspaniels and Cockapoos and told the puppies, which she’d already found homes for, could have been worth up to £16,000 and believes that a demand for these types of dog has led to an increase in crime.
She appeared on This Morning today, where she told that her children no longer feel safe visiting her farm alone, and urged pet owners to take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their animals.
‘Every puppy or dog that was stolen from us was born here,’ said Justine, ‘I saw them open their eyes. How can you not feel anything, it’s just normal?
‘It’s like taking one of your children away, you won’t ever get over it. It will always have a lasting effect.’
When asked what she thinks has happened to the animals, she said: ‘The puppies I truly believe have been sold on, they’re like £2,200 each.
‘It’s gone crazy for Cockapoos at the moment and I think that’s what’s fuelling all the dog thefts.’
Luckily, Justine has recovered three puppies after discovering them advertised for sale online at inflated prices.
She explained that all of the puppies had already been promised to families, who were receiving daily updates ahead of re-homing the animal.
‘Every single one of those puppies had homes they were going to, said Justine. ‘The owners had photos of the everyday until they were stolen. ‘
She later added: ‘It’s something that will never go away, it does make me feel angry. It’s something that hits really deep with me, because animal welfare should be the top priority of anyone with an animal.’
Justine advised pet owners ‘you can never have enough security’ and argued that ‘cost is irrelevant’ when it comes to the safety of an animal, which you have given ‘dedication and care’.
She told: ‘What I’d advise any pet owner is, you can’t have enough security whatever it costs.
‘You have to keep your pet safe, like you would your family. It’s something you put so much care and dedication into, cost is irrelevant.’
Mother-of-four Justine explained that her young children are now too scared to visit their farm alone.
Meanwhile, her 21-year-old son insists on accompanying her as he feels it is unsafe for her to go alone.
She told: ‘It is our livelihood, but more to the point it is our life. Our lives revolve around our dogs, they’re the first and last things we think of.
‘I have four at home and the youngest ones, they have their own cats and a couple of the dogs they class as their own.
‘They won’t come into the building anymore as they feel it’s not safe. My 21-year-old boy comes out with me at night time as he doesn’t feel it’s safe.’