‘I’m not a dog thief’: Woman who has saved 150 missing pets using a drone denies charging owner £600 to get her ‘stolen’ Shih Tzu back from travellers
- Erica Hart was accused of working with travellers who asked for cash for dog
- She has denied this, insisting she is not a ‘dog thief’ and didn’t touch the money
- Lorraine Jenkins paid £600 for the return of missing Shih Tzu Susie in January
A woman who has saved 150 missing dogs using drones has denied charging a pet owner £600 to get her ‘stolen’ Shih Tzu back from travellers.
Erica Hart, from Barnsley, helps reunite missing pets with their owners with the help of remote control helicopters.
However, she has recently faced accusations from Lorraine Jenkins, who alleged Ms Hart was in cahoots with travellers and asked for £600 for the return of her Shih Tzu Susie.
Ms Hart says she tracked down Ms Jenkins’ dog while investigating two other dog thefts and drove her to the campsite where the travellers were.
But she denies taking any money from Ms Jenkins, 50, and says she was only involved as a ‘third party’.
Erica Hart (above), from Barnsley, helps reunite missing pets with their owners free of charge with the help of remote control helicopters
She was later arrested on suspicion of dog theft before being released under investigation – but Ms Hart is adamant she is not a ‘dog thief’.
She said: ‘Two other dogs had been stolen and I found and when they gave me them back I said I wanted the Shih Tzu back that they’d stolen.
‘She agreed to pay the £600 so I picked the woman up, took her to the campsite and she handed over £600. She gave that money to the travellers. I am no dog thief.’
Ms Jenkins says her Shih Tzu was stolen from her garden in Doncaster in January.
She posted news of her dog’s disappearance on Facebook to try and find answers, and Ms Hart then got in touch with her sister.
Ms Jenkins claims Ms Hart said she would need to pay £600 to get her dog back.
The postwoman travelled with Erica to the campsite to retrieve her dog, with Ms Jenkins claiming Ms Hart then pocketed the money.
However, the volunteer says she never physically touched the £600.
‘When I met the travellers I said “I want this little Shih Tzu dog back” and one of them said “if you want it back, it’s £600,” she said.
Lorraine Jenkins has alleged Ms Hart was in cahoots with travellers and asked for £600 for the return of her Shih Tzu Susie (seen together)
‘I didn’t know Lorraine so I messaged her sister and said “is this your sister’s dog” and sent a picture?
‘I told her she would have to pay the money or call police but she said her sister was terrified of travellers so I said no problem. I rang the travellers and said “she wants the dog and will pay £600”.
‘He hands her the dog and she started crying and Lorraine knocked on the passenger window and handed and envelope to the traveller.
He put it in his pocket and walked off and shook my hand.
‘I never physically touched the money and I wish I had never got involved.’
Ms Jenkins said: ‘She was getting praise for saving a lot of dogs and as soon as I saw that I said ‘she is back on patrol pinching dogs.
‘Since it all Susie hasn’t been the same and she won’t go out of the house unless I’m there with her.’
Ms Hart says she was arrested in relation to the theft of Susie, but released under investigation.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: ‘Enquiries are continuing after a reported theft of a dog in the Thorne area on 9 January 2021.
‘It was reported that at around 4.30pm on that date, two unknown offenders were seen gaining access to the victims garden on Winholme, Doncaster, and stealing a dog.
‘One person, a 39-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of theft and has since been released under investigation.
‘The dog has since been returned to its owner.’