An animal charity is pleading with pet owners to be vigilant and to report any suspicious activities to the gardai after reports of a large number of dogs being stolen.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) said dogs and puppies for sale online have been reaching astronomical prices over the past few months due to high demand when more people have been at home due to Covid-19 restrictions.
In recent weeks, there has been a flurry of reports of stolen pets from all over the country and, while gardaí say there has not yet been a spike in reports to them, they have warned owners to be cautious.
Following a seizure of some ten dogs from a property in Limerick last week, gardaí seized seven golden cocker spaniel puppies in a car at Junction 14, Monasterevin, Co Kildare over the weekend.
The puppies were discovered when officers became suspicious of two cars in the truck park of the service area.
The dogs, which were not microchipped, were handed over to the ISPCA. A garda investigation is underway.
In Longford, gardaí also carried checkpoints in the county town as part of a response to a nationwide spike in dog thefts.
The checkpoints involved the scanning of dogs for microchips and, gardaí said, most were found to be registered properly.
They are reminding the public that all dogs must be microchipped and registered on a recognised database.
It is also illegal to pass on a dog, even without payment, to another person unless the animal is microchipped.
Fines of up to €5,000 are applicable for breaches of the laws.
Further checkpoints to monitor and check dog ownership will be in place, gardaí said.
The ISPCA is also pleading with owners to take steps to keep their pets safe.
Carmel Murrary, ISPCA spokesperson said: "A microchip certificate will then be issued so it is important to keep this document safe and remember to update contact details, if anyone moves house, change their phone number or transfer ownership of the pet.
“If contact details are not up-to-date, it will not be possible to make contact in the event that a pet goes missing.
"If a pet is not microchipped, we urge people to please contact their vet and book an appointment to get it done today.
“All dogs and puppies are legally required to be microchipped before they leave the land or premises where they were born, or before they reach 12 weeks of age, whichever comes first.”
Ms Murray added that it is best to keep dogs secure and in sight, have CCTV installed as it is a good deterrent and gives peace of mind.
“Don’t leave a dog tied up outside any premises or shops as it’s creating an ideal opportunity for them to be stolen.
"Report a theft straight away to the gardaí, animal welfare association and community group," she said.