Campaigners are calling for harsher penalties for dog-napping, after a recent spate of thefts prompted concerns for animals in Tayside.
Concern over thefts has grown in the past year, with the price of dogs rocketing due to the increase in demand during the pandemic.
Recent thefts include two female springer spaniels, who were stolen from their kennels in the Kingussie area on July 11.
One is a three year old black and white spaniel and the other is an eleven year old liver and white spaniel.
The older dog was found some 80 miles away in Crieff on Friday July 16.
Both dogs are microchipped, spayed and elderly.
The concerned families believe both incidents were planned and think their properties were watched by thieves before they took the dogs.
Now Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group is calling for tougher consequences to be introduced for thieves, to act as a deterrent.
Alice Bugden, coordinator for the group, said: “We have seen a couple of cases in the past week where gamekeepers’ dogs have been stolen from their kennels.
“These are not only working dogs, a vital part of the keeper’s job, but also beloved pets and friends.
“We are also still missing a female springer spaniel stolen in October 2020 from the Blairgowrie area and we want to appeal for her safe return as well.”
A West Dunbartonshire woman’s petition pushing for harsher punishments for dog thieves reached 146,000 signatures last month.
Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group believe harsher punishments should be introduced for those involved in dog thefts.
Currently there is no specific offence in relation to the theft of animals in Scotland. Judges rely on past precedent when deciding a sentence.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The theft of a much-loved pet can be a traumatic experience for owners and that is one of the reasons we require dogs over the age of eight weeks to be microchipped.
“While there is no specific criminal offence of ‘pet theft’, the existing common law offence of theft offers robust protection and the maximum penalty for theft, including the theft of animals, goes all the way up to a life sentence when tried in the High Court.”
Campaigners want to see a government awareness campaign for owners on how to keep dogs safe.
They believe that the thefts represent an animal welfare issue and urge the public to look out for missing dogs.
The reference number for the theft of the black and white springer spaniel is 0728 of July 12.
The reference for the golden cocker spaniels is 2071, July 15.