DOG thieves are tying different coloured twines outside homes to mark them out as targets for gangs.
Kate O'Connor, an administrator of the Missing Dogs Ireland Facebook page, highlighted the latest tactic of dog thieves as gardaí are continuing their efforts to trace the owner of a springer spaniel found in Limerick two weeks ago.
He is believed to be around 18 months. Another springer spaniel who was found with the dog was reunited last week with his owner in Carrignavar.
Both dogs were stolen.
Ms O'Connor said that color coding is used by thieves to identify where different breeds of dogs are.
"There was one in Ballycotton recently where a blue piece of twine was left on someone's gate but the owner saw it and removed it," she said.
It is believed the twines are used as a signal to other members of the gangs.
Green, white and red twines are also used.
Dogs are now in big demand because many families are opting to buy pets during the Covid-19 crisis, because of having more time at home.
As a result, the cost of dogs is spiralling. For example, the asking price on one website yesterday for an English Bulldog pup was €1,800 while the price of a Cockapoo pup was €1,950.
It is believed that gangs involved in dog thefts follow the routine of dog owners to find out when is the opportune time to strike.
Ms O'Connor said the first hour after a dog is stolen is the most crucial in terms of finding the animal.
"Within 24 hours, they could be exported," she said.
Dog owners who have had their dogs stolen in recent months are watching websites and Facebook groups for their dog to show up.
In many cases, dog owners are watching out for their dogs on UK-based websites.
Ms O'Connor is urging people wishing to buy dogs not to do so from unknown sources.
She said: "Common sense should tell you that there is something not right if you are meeting someone in a car park to buy a dog."