The touching moment a dog was reunited with her owner after being snatched from her dog walker’s van has been captured in a heartwarming video.
Melina Georgiou, 27, was left devastated when her beloved Maltipoo puppy Nala was stolen in Barnet, north London last month, and launched an appeal on Facebook for the return of her pet.
She had entrusted a professional dog walker with Nala’s care but as the dog walker went to another client’s house, thieves struck and drove off in their van, which was parked outside.
After weeks missing from her family, Nala has since been returned safe and well and footage shows an emotional Melina laughing and crying as she cradles the excited puppy. It’s not clear yet how the puppy came to be returned safely.
Melina Georgiou, 27, (pictured) has been reunited with her beloved Maltipoo puppy Nala who was stolen in Barnet, north London, last month
Nala has been found safe and well and footage shows an emotional Melina laughing and crying as she cradles the excited puppy
A second dog, Chester, was also in the van but has since also been reunited with his owners.
Melina wrote in February: ‘Our beautiful little one-year-old maltipoo called Nala was stolen this afternoon while the dogs were being dropped home from a walk by our dog walker.
‘As the dog walker walked out of the car to drop one of the dogs home, in Barnet, north London, someone jumped in her van and drove off with Nala and two others.’
She told The Star: ‘I cannot BELIEVE the support not only from locals but from the whole entire country.
Melina Georgiou, pictured, was left devastated by the theft of her pet and launched a campaign in February for her safe return
Nala, pictured, was taken from the back of the dog walker’s van in Barnet, north London
‘It’s been absolutely overwhelming, we’ve had over 11k shares on Facebook alone, hundreds and hundreds on Instagram and Twitter and floods of loving messages or support and kind words which has been so motivating to never give up hope that we’ll find her.
‘It’s been a horrible day but everyone’s local support has been a beautiful thing.’
Organised criminals are turning to dog theft amid a rise in demand for puppies during lockdown, police have warned.
Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), said the increase in potential profits had made the illegal trade more attractive to hardened lawbreakers.
The charity DogLost saw reported pet thefts rise from 172 dogs in 2019 to 465 in 2020.
Melina released an appeal on Facebook for people to help her find her stolen dog
Ms Blackman, who is the NPCC lead for acquisitive crime, said: ‘Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners.
‘Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.
‘During the coronavirus pandemic, criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period.
‘The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.’
At the time of her theft, Nala, pictured, was wearing a distinctive-looking pink coat
She warned pet owners to be careful posting pictures of their new puppy on social media, and for buyers to consider where the animal had come from.
Recent cases of suspected dog theft include the discovery of several English bulldog puppies at a home in Wigan.
Greater Manchester Police arrested three people after a member of the public saw someone carrying seven puppies into the house.
In Wales, Dyfed-Powys Police found 80 dogs at a property in Carmarthenshire that are thought to have been stolen.
Two people have been arrested and so far 30 of the animals have been returned to their owners.