YOUNGSTERS have been left devastated after heartless thieves broke into a community allotment and snatched dozens of animals.
Now there are concerns that some of the animals could die if they do not get urgent medical attention.
Samantha Cornforth takes in and cares for sick, injured and pregnant animals at her allotment.
She is visited by local youngsters who pet the animals, and some of the children leave their pets in her care.
Police are investigating after raiders struck at her plot, off Acacia Avenue, in Horden, and stole 36 hens, six rabbits and four quails.
Samantha, 27, said: “I’m gutted.
“I’m sick of being done over, it’s not the first time I have been broken into and not the first time I have had livestock taken.
“A mother of one of the children let her child know what had happened and when I got there she was waiting on the doorstep crying her eyes out wanting to know if her rabbit had been taken.”
Samantha, who lives in the Oakerside Park area of Peterlee, added the animals are constantly under her care.
“People can’t be taking animals when they are sick and poorly,” she added.
“I need them back or they are just going to die.
“They shouldn’t be taking baby rabbits away from their mothers and they are not going to be able to give the animals the care that I can.”
The incident happened between 11.15pm on Wednesday, June 13, and 5.15am on Thursday, June 14.
Now Samantha plans to visit auctions all over the North-East to see if she could identify her livestock.
Samantha, who works part-time with disabled children, said she is now in desperate need of chickens as otherwise the cockerels she keeps will fight.
PC Kathryn Davies, of Peterlee Police, is investigating the break-in, which also saw various gardening tools stolen.
Anyone with information about the incident is urged to contact PC Davies on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.