Bella's three-year ordeal left her riddled with mange (Image: Kennel Club/Francesca Sharp)
Much-loved Bella as only reunited with her pining owner after being dumped on the streets having been treated abominably by unscrupulous breeders looking for fat profits.
Her ears were riddled with excruciating mange and her eyes red-raw.
She also displayed the classic signs of being used to breed puppies and nursing countless litters.
Bella the cocker spaniel is now back home with owner Francesca Sharp (Image: Kennel Club/Francesca Sharp)
Luckily for Bella, she was still fitted with a microchip when she was found on a country road in Kent which meant being returned speedily to the waiting arms of owner Francesca Sharp.
With Bella now sticking constantly by her owner’s side, Ms Sharp explained today how she had never given up hope of seeing her little blue roan spaniel back where she belonged.
By keeping Bella’s microchip details updated since she vanished from the family’s Essex home in 2015, as well as keeping in touch with Dog Lost, the UK’s largest pet lost and found service, the owner had dramatically increased the chances of her safe return.
Bella was found abandoned last month with four other dogs. Shocking pictures reveal how she had suffered since being stolen.
Ms Sharp explained: “After being rescued by a kind man from the roadside, Bella was taken to a local dog charity and put into council kennels. Through the power of social media, especially Dog Lost who actually alerted my parents to videos of Bella circulating online, and then having her microchip scanned, we were reunited.
“I am eternally grateful that she was microchipped and that I kept our contact details up to date with Petlog, as well as Dog Lost proactively helping us to find Bella. We might have never seen her again if things had been different.
“Bella is now home and recovering well. She lives for affection and cuddles and never leaves my side.”
Bella suffered excruciating mange being bred by puppy farmers (Image: Francesca Sharp/Kennel Club)
Having created an Instagram page – Bella_got_Back – to highlight the dangers of not having pets microchipped, Ms Sharp is also anxious to raise awareness of illegal puppy farming.
She added: “I’m so relieved to have my best friend back but not everyone who has their dog stolen is as lucky, and thousands of stolen dogs and puppies suffer because of puppy farming every year.”
Christmas provides a lucrative market for corrupt dealers to sell young dogs to unsuspecting animal lovers keen to give pets as presents but blissfully unaware of the horrendous conditions that exist on puppy farms.
Although the Government is heralding a new crackdown on puppy farms by banning so-called “third party sales”, the Kennel Club says worrying loopholes are being exploited.
Its research reveals:
· Only one in three people say they would know how to spot a puppy farmer;
· Up to 23 per cent believe they may have bought a dog from a puppy farm;
· One in five buyers did not see their puppy with its mother or suspect it was with a dog that was not the real mother;
· As many as 12 per cent of buyers paid up front for a puppy before seeing it – a figure that means up to a million dogs could have been purchased unseen;
· Almost a third of purchasers did not see the puppy in its breeding environment and one in 12 had the dog delivered to their home.
Safe at last. Bella sleeps after her ordeal (Image: Francesca Sharp/Kennel Club)
Kennel Club Secretary, Caroline Kisko, said: “While Francesca and Bella’s story had a happy ending, so many others end terribly with devastating repercussions. No one ever expects it to happen, but we urge all owners to microchip their pets and keep their details completely up to date so that they have the very best chance of finding their pets if they are ever lost or stolen.
“It’s shocking how many dogs, like Bella, are stolen and used to breed in awful conditions. We continue to campaign for stricter laws to stop puppy farming and urge anyone who is considering buying a puppy to ensure they go to a responsible breeder, such as a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, and know what to look out for, which includes seeing the puppy with its mum and in its actual breeding environment.
"Rogue dog breeders selling directly to puppy buyers can still be masking terrible conditions and the yawning gap in puppy buyer awareness about how to identify a good breeder leaves people – and dogs – very vulnerable.”
For more information about Puppy Awareness Week, top tips and an infographic on how to buy a puppy visit thekennelclub.org.uk/paw . For further information about Petlog and microchipping, visit https://www.petlog.org.uk/