Dog owners are warning about tactics believed to be used to target certain homes amid a spate of dog thefts in the Gold Coast and Brisbane areas.
The family of a stolen British bulldog named Biggie have launched a far-reaching social media campaign to find their beloved pet since he was stolen from their Gold Coast home on March 21.
On Monday, a group which has banded together to help relocate the dog, warned about graffiti markings and a disturbing theory behind their meaning.
"Recently 6-8 pets have been stolen from the Gold Coast/Brisbane area. We believe that these are targeted attacks," the group posted.
"BIGGIE was targeted there's no doubt in our minds. The next day after his disappearance we noticed fresh TAGS outside our property."
Biggie's owner, Nadine Steedman, told Yahoo News Australia the graffiti turned up about two days before the dog was stolen.
"We noticed those a couple days before Biggie went missing ... They were fresh," she said.
“To be totally honest I don’t really know how I feel about the graffiti but it was only right outside my driveway and my letterbox."
Ms Steedman said she wanted to make people aware after what she believes is a rise in the number of dog thefts in her area.
"It’s getting out of control," she said.
“I 100 per cent knew he’d been taken. He doesn’t like the rain and that night [he went missing] it was raining quite heavy."
The BringBiggieHome page has gained a large local following with more than 20,000 followers on Facebook and has helped ignite a huge groundswell of support from the community who continue to look for the dog.
“It’s been incredible. It’s been 22 days since he’s been missing and it's only growing bigger," Ms Steedman said.
Expensive dog breeds 'are being targeted'
A local woman who runs a shelter for lost and found dogs and helps with investigations into stolen pets, including Biggie, told Yahoo News Australia dog theft in the area "is on the rise".
She said gangs of typically young teens have been targeting certain breeds and have little fear of police with six bulldogs stolen in the past eight weeks.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity out of concern for jeopardising future investigations if the thieves knew her identity, she said "it's happening all over" the area.
“These are expensive dogs that are getting pinched …and sold for astronomical prices – up to $8000," she said.
"The expensive breeds are being targeted."
She said the thieves are typically young males and are trying to make a quick buck. Due to their minor status, they display little fear of the authorities.
“You confront these people …It's almost as if they’ve been hurt their whole lives and they enjoy watching other people suffer," she said.
Police confirmed to Yahoo News Australia arrests were made on Monday over a French Bulldog that was stolen from inside a home in the area.
Those arrested were minors but are believed to not be cooperating with police, despite evidence reportedly found on their phones.
It is unclear if they are in any way responsible for the theft of Biggie. No arrests have been made in relation to Biggie.
In a statement, Queensland Police told Yahoo News Australia, "anecdotally, police have not seen an increase in stolen dogs reported in the southeast region compared to previous years."
Nor are they aware of graffiti tags being used to target certain houses.
"There is no evidence to suggest certain strategies or methodologies are being used," Queensland Police said.
"Taking measures such as ensuring your dog is micro-chipped, not leaving them unattended for large periods of time outdoors, and ensuring you have adequate lighting and security measures in and around your residence can help prevent the possibility of dog theft."
'I know he's out there': Owners ramping up search
Ms Steedman has received plenty of attention after "the heartbreak" of losing her dog and says she won't be slowing down in her hunt for Biggie
“There are people out today looking, we’ve had businesses offer money, we’ve had a sign writing company that have done some flyers up for us," she said.
“We’re looking at getting pictures put on buses or getting a billboard done up.
"I'm not stopping."
She also has plans to visit high schools in the local area in a bid to address the problem at its source.
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