A KNUTSFORD dog walker has started a campaign to make people aware about the dangers of animals being stolen from public places.

Claire Bryers, who runs Knutty Dogs, said she is deeply alarmed at an apparent increase in dog thefts and wanted to warn the public about leaving their beloved pooches tied up outside shops.

The idea of the campaign comes on the back of news about a pair of a black Labradors being stolen from outside a supermarket in Nantwich.

The frightening incident happened outside the Marks and Spencers store on Beam Street at around 6pm on Saturday, March 27, but thankfully, police officers managed to recover the stolen dogs from an address in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday.

Claire said she the incident should be a wake up call to the people of Knutsford and suggested the sight of dogs being left outside the town's shops was possibly due to the naivety of owners.

"Dogs are being stolen all the time and I think people are just very much unaware of it," she said.

"As a dog walker and a dog lover, anything around dogs always comes to my attention.

"I also do a lot of rescue work so dogs are always at the forefront of my mind.

"I constantly see dogs tied up outside shops in Knutsford and I honestly think it's just a matter of time before it happens here."

Along with her colleague Jan Elstub, the pair want to make sure people are more aware of the potential risk they are taking when leaving their pet tied up outside a shop.

"I think it's just naivety really," she added.

"Don't get me wrong, I've tied my dog up outside shops in the past and not thought about it, but it's definitely not something I would do now.

"I've become very aware of the opportunist thieves that are around, who are only interested in making a quick buck.

"Speaking of the shops that are in Knutsford, there are plenty of places to leave your dog tied up, but most of them are not designated areas and they're not in sight of members of staff.

"But then again, they wouldn't know if someone came along and just took a dog away.

"It's not a dog minding service.

"But I do think supermarket's need to take more responsibility as this is about customers who are coming into their stores spending money.

"They do need to open their eyes to it.

"Some shops are dog friendly but supermarkets don't currently allow dogs in.

"There are also areas in the UK that are known to be more dog friendly, such as Cornwall, the Lakes and Wales, so why can't we do the same?"

Claire, who has three rescue dogs, including a 14-year-old Jack Russell called Jack and a pair of Bulgarian dogs named Lillie and Duke, said another problem was the rise in the number of people owning 'designer breeds'.

She said: "People are buying puppies with an average price of about £3000 each.

"In this climate where a lot of people are out of work, it's an opportunity for some people to make some fast cash.

"It's a horrible thought, but they're not just stolen to sell on, they can be used for breeding, but also as baiting dogs, which is very much the dark side of dark theft.

"I'm just so pleased the two dogs taken from Nantwich have been found.

"It's only down the road for us.

"I think that's what has made me think we really need to do something now.

"I wouldn't know what to do with myself if my dog's ever got taken."

Claire plans to speak to local supermarkets and also the town council about the campaign, with an initial idea to produce posters and flyers to warn people of the possible dangers.

"Not everyone is on social media, so they might not be as aware of it as others," she said.

"People maybe think Knutsford is a bit of a bubble, but thieves could become aware of that.

"If we can pop some posters in the supermarkets it would be useful and I intend to speak to them all to try and raise awareness."

Police confirmed on Wednesday that three people have been charged with the theft of the two Labradors from Nantwich.

Malachy Doherty, 37, Mary Docherty, 28, and a 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were arrested at an address in Metcalfe Road, Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent.

Speaking before the arrests were made, Detective Sergeant Vicki Shelton said: "Pets are part of the family and having them stolen is a harrowing and distressing experience.

"I would like to reassure members of the community that we take incidents of this nature extremely seriously and are doing all we can to establish who stole the dogs, make them face the consequences of their actions and have the pets returned to their rightful owner."