A SIX-WEEK-OLD puppy was wrestled from its owner’s grasp in a busy street in broad daylight before being sped away in a waiting car in a bizarre “dognapping”.
The much-loved pet was later found on a travellers’ site by police and inquiries are now underway to find out who stole the dog.
The incident happened outside of Sainsbury’s, in Hartlepool’s Murray Street, on Tuesday morning.
Toni Mason had been given the Jack Russell-cross Pomeranian pup by her boyfriend, Scott Stevens, as a present for her birthday a week ago.
The couple and their new pet, which they named Troy, were walking to a friend’s house when they stopped at the shop.
As Toni, 20, went to go in the shop while Scott held the dog in his arms, they said a man with an Irish accent approached them and said his daughter would love to see the puppy.
Claiming his daughter was inside the store, they said the man asked Toni to go and find her to get her to come out and see the pet.
But once she had gone inside, Scott said the man started wrestling with him to snatch the dog before jumping into a waiting car with the puppy and speeding off.
The stunned couple, from Birch Walk, in the Dyke House area, contacted Cleveland Police within minutes and launched a Facebook appeal among their friends.
Luckily someone said they had spotted a similar-looking dog at some caravans parked near to Prospect Way, in Park View West Industrial Estate, off Brenda Road.
The pair have told how they drove to the area and saw two children “playing tug of war with Troy’s legs”.
Fortunately a police car was parked nearby and Toni and Scott say they explained the situation to the officer, who then went to the caravans and took the animal away before reuniting him with his owners.
Today Scott said he and Toni felt very lucky that Troy had been returned to them.
He said: “We really didn’t think we were going to get him back.
“We were just driving around looking for him when a friend said someone had seen a puppy who fitted the description we’d put on Facebook near Brenda Road.
“We went down there and there were two little kids dragging him about by his legs trying to play tug of war with him.
“Luckily there was a police car nearby so the officer went over and got him back for us. We were over the moon, Toni was crying her eyes out.”
Scott added: “He’s a bit shaken up and he’ll only stay with Toni at the minute.
“It’s horrible to think what might have happened to him.
“We are just delighted to have him back, we’ve been really lucky and we realise that.
“We won’t be letting people stroke him now either, unless we know them.”
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said an investigation has been launched into the incident which happened on Tuesday, around 10.30am.
She said: “The dog was recovered from a travellers’ site on Prospect Way. Inquiries are ongoing.”