U.S. Markets closed

Dog owners warned to watch out for drones after dognappers steal autistic girl's Dalmatian

Helena Horton
Chloe Hopkins, 11, has cried herself to sleep every night since Lottie was snatched

Dog owners have been warned to watch out for drones around their property after dognappers stole an autistic girl's support animal.

Lottie, a rare liver-and-white Dalmation, was snatched from the Leicestershire home of Chloe Hopkins on the 1st of December after her mother, Gemma, had spied a drone flying over her garden.

It is thought by the family that burglars used the device to scope out the property, find where the dog was kept and figure out a way in.

The thieves, who took the three-year-old dog along with her bed, came in to the kitchen where the dog was sleeping through an outhouse in the garden.

Mrs Hopkins said: "I live in a very small village and I knew it wasn't any of my neighbours flying a drone.

"It was round the side of my house where I've got a gate, which they've actually gone through to get Lottie."

Dog theft is on the rise, with cases increasing 4 per cent last year to 1,959, compared with 1,879 in 2017. Campaigners complain that it's a low-risk high-reward crime because police view it as "minor".

Chloe Hopkins has cried herself to sleep every night since Lottie was stolen, according to her mother, who told the BBC: "Chloe and Lottie are inseparable. She helps Chloe calm down - she's her best friend,

"She helps Chloe get through every day because she's got her best friend to come home to."

How Lottie looks now

The dog was last seen in the early hours of Sunday morning when Mrs Hopkins went downstairs to feed her newborn baby.

By 7.30am, the dog, who needs specialist care for her liver condition, was gone and a bolt on the outhouse was broken. 

Dog owners have been warned that a drone in their garden could be a sign that criminals are checking the property to see if they can steal their pet.

Wayne May, a police liaison officer at DogLost said:  "We at DogLost actually employ drones and drone users and they aid us in recovering dogs. 

"It's also been known for criminals to commit crimes using drones to help burgle homes.

"I'd always err on the side of caution of someone is flying a drone over your property anyway as it's not unheard of. 

"The guidelines for drone flying have now changed dramatically and in certain cases if you have a drone in your property you can report it.

"If you don't normally have a drone in your garden you should be extra cautious and report it."

New rules regarding drones came into force last month, with all unmanned aircraft weighing between 250g and 20kg having to be registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for an annual fee of £9.

Pilots of all ages will also have to pass a theory test to demonstrate they can fly "legally and safely" before they get behind the controls.

The new scheme, called the Drone Registration and Education Scheme, aims to crackdown on rogue and malicious use of drones, which have exploded in popularity in recent years.