AN organised gang of criminals are targeting pet dogs across Hampshire, a senior police officer said.

Three cocker spaniels have been stolen in the central Hampshire area in the last seven days at Bullington and Owslebury, near Winchester.

Men have also been seen behaving suspiciously near kennels at Beauworth and Ovington, near Alresford.

Ch Insp Simon Dodds was reported in a national newspaper today saying: “There appears to be a group of organised individuals out there specifically targeting working dogs.

“We’ve had some really useful information come into us from members of the public and we would urge them to continue doing so. We would ask people to be extra vigilant and also use common sense if you are buying a dog.

“Ensure the dog is micro-chipped, visit them in their home environment and check its history very carefully, otherwise you might be buying stolen property unwittingly."

Dog rescue group DogLost police co-ordinator Jane Franklin said: “Working dogs are a valuable commodity; they're trained and expensive breeds and can change hands for around £1,500.”