Owners fear dogs taken for illegal fights

Fears of illegal dog fighting rings in the Coalfields are growing with reports of two more dogs being stolen from Maitland's western suburbs.

The latest thefts come a week after a bulldog was stolen from a Rutherford backyard.

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Amy Shapland said two dogs belonging to her and partner Kane Down, were stolen from their Telarah property a week apart and said she has heard numerous stories about other dogs going missing from secured yards in her neighbourhood.

Coco, her female American Staffordshire bull terrier, was taken on Saturday, June 9, the day after the bulldog named Tank was stolen. Dungey, her male English staffy, was taken last Friday.

"There have been numerous dogs go missing from around this area and there has been some speculation about what has been going on," Miss Shapland said.

"People have seen a tonner truck with a 16-cage trailer going around the area picking up dogs. It has been spotted twice but no one has been able to get a number plate."

While the RSPCA's Hunter shelter at Rutherford has only received one call from a man who reported his dog as stolen, Maitland Police duty officer Glenn Blain said he only knew what he had read in the Newcastle Herald.

"We ask people to report all thefts including dogs," he said.

The owner of Tank, Amy Cole said she had contacted police but was directed to the Police Assistance Line to lodge a report.

Ms Shapland said she is offering a reward for her dogs but did not wish to disclose a figure. Tank's reward has been raised to $6000.

"We just want our dogs back, they are like our babies and there will be no questions asked if they are returned," Ms Shapland said.

"Our biggest fear is that all these dogs are being stolen for illegal dog fighting."

Miss Cole said her search for Tank is ongoing and she had heard of about 10 thefts of dogs across Maitland since the Herald published Tank's story.

"Just before Tank was stolen I understand that three bulldogs went missing from a home in Telarah," she said.

"One was found wandering the streets and taken to the pound, two others were found in a bad way near Walka Water Works with cuts and patches ripped out of their skin.

"Something is going on and we have to get to the bottom of it."

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