Woman who finds lost dogs with drone denies charging £600 to return pets

Lorraine Jenkins and Erica Hart
‘Dog saviour’ Erica Hart (r) has been accused by Lorraine Jenkins (l) of being in cahoots with thieves and charging people for the safe return of their animals (Picture: MEN Media)

A woman who has tracked down around 150 dogs using a drone has been forced to deny claims she asked for a £600 payment to return a pet.

Erica Hart, from Barnsley, has carved out a reputation as a ‘dog saviour’ by rescuing pets who have gone AWOL.

She uses drones to locate the animals and bring them back safely, spending hours on end scouring the landscape for any sign of the missing dog.

Ms Hart decided to start helping out as a hobby but soon became the go-to person if a pet search was needed. She says she’s never taken any money for her efforts.
But, after a story was published on her heroics in the local paper, Ms Hart faced accusations of being in cahoots with the thieves and forcing pet owners to pay to get their dogs back. A postwoman called Lorraine Jenkins alleged Ms Hart asked for £600 for the safe return of her Shih Tzu Susie back in January.

It’s now emerged that Ms Hart was arrested on suspicion of dog theft at the time and has been released under investigation.

Ms Hart has denied any wrong-doing and said she merely acted as an intermediary to secure the safe return of Susie.

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Lorraine Jenkins, pictured with stolen Shih Tzu Susie
Lorraine Jenkins, pictured with stolen Shih Tzu Susie, said she was forced to pay £600 to get her dog back (Picture: MEN Media)
She says she traced two other missing dogs back to a traveller site and while there discovered the stolen Shih Tzu. She got in touch with Ms Jenkins to let her know where the dog was and told her the travellers were asking for payment. ‘When I met the travellers I said “I want this little Shih Tzu dog back and one of them said “if you want it back, it’s £600”,’ Erica said. ‘I didn’t know Lorraine so I messaged her sister and said “is this your sister’s dog?” and sent a picture.
Erica Hart
Erica Hart has rescued 150 dogs after they went missing (Picture: MEN Media)

‘I told her she would have to pay the money or call police but she said her sister was terrified of travellers so I said no problem. I rang the travellers and said “she wants the dog and will pay £600”.

‘He hands her the dog and she started crying and Lorraine knocked on the passenger window and handed an envelope to the traveller. He put it in his pocket and walked off and shook my hand.

‘I never physically touched the money and I wish I had never got involved.’

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Ms Jenkins, whose dog has been emotionally fragile since being stolen, said she was forced to speak out after seeing the praise Ms Hart was receiving.

She alleges Susie was stolen from her garden in Doncaster and Ms Hart got in touch after seeing her desperate post on Facebook.

Ms Jenkins said Ms Hart ‘pocketed the money’ after they travelled together to the campsite.

A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: ‘Enquiries are continuing after a reported theft of a dog in the Thorne area on 9 January 2021.
‘It was reported that at around 4.30pm on that date, two unknown offenders were seen gaining access to the victims garden on Winholme, Doncaster, and stealing a dog.

‘One person, a 39-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of theft and has since been released under investigation. The dog has since been returned to its owner.’

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