A distraught mum has told how she watched in horror as a woman snatched her three tiny Chihuahuas from a garden.
Elle Pires, 41, asked a neighbour to look after Parker, six-months-old, his two-year-old mum, Petulia, and her mum Fleur, nine, while she went shopping.
But just as she pulled up in her car to pick up the pups she watched a woman grab the pooches from the lawn and make off.
The “heartless thug” dropped Fleur, but managed to get away with the two other dogs before desperate Elle could catch her.
She fears the snatch was part of an organised plan to steal pricey Chihuahua’s to sell on for Christmas, after she claims other owners have posted ‘missing’ notices in the area.
Elle, from South Shields, who works in the entertainment industry, said: “I think the people who have done this are proper scum and heartless thugs.
“These are not toys to sell – they are my pets.
“I am so worried about what they have done with Parker and Petulia.
“You can not just steal somebody’s pet just because you feel like it – I won’t stand for it.”
Elle has always kept Chihuahuas and had six before the two were stolen last week.
The mother-of-two swiftly alerted police, who have launched an investigation to find the dog-napper and the two stolen dogs, which can sell for up to £2,000.
She said: “There was a man and a woman and a boy who took the dogs.
“I ran after the woman but she got away from me. I was hysterical.
“I am worried they have been separated or are being neglected or could be sold on.
“They need to be back home.”
“Parker and his mum have always been together, so I am very concerned that they could be separated.
“I have been on the internet posting pictures and I noticed on the dogs page for Durham there were five others who had been stolen so I think this is people stealing them to sell for Christmas time.
“But they are not toys.”