PET owners in Sevilla have received a police warning after a spate of dog thefts hit the province.
Distraught owners were called from a private telephone number and told that their animals would be hung unless a ransom was paid.
Detectives from the Guardia Civil’s SEPRONA animal protection arm launched a probe after they spotted an unusually large number of missing dogs posters appearing in the villages of Alacala del Rio and Burguillos.
The majority of those taken were small breeds including chihuahuas and pugs.
Investigators called several of the numbers on the notices, with the owners confirming that they had received phone calls threatening their pets and demanding that they pay to get them back.
One said that his chihuahua was taken from the terrace of his home and that shortly afterwards a person called to “say that they had found his dog and that if he wanted to see it again it would cost him €250.”
This enabled detectives to set a trap after arranging a rendezvous between the owner and thief, swooping to arrest a young man who carried the dog.
But he claimed that someone else had given it to him and that he was only providing a delivery service.
He was freed after giving a name to police who have now held a second suspect, but residents have been warned that more dog thieves may still be at large.