A devastated pair of dog owners had their £1,800 puppy stolen by a brazen thief outside a Tesco store.
Andy Smith was holding his three-month-old German Shepherd on a leash outside the store in Poole Quay, Dorset, when the thief came up to him and pretended to stroke him.
The thief managed to take the puppy, named Bear, off his lead without Mr Smith, 67, noticing, and snatched him before the poor owner could realise what had happened.
A security guard and passer-by gave chase but were unable to catch him as he fled on a Beryl bike.
Mr Smith’s wife Marie, 57, said they only got Bear three weeks ago from a breeder and paid £1,800 for him.
The incident happened at a time when dog thefts across the country are rising at an alarming rate.
The cost of puppies has shot up to as much as £5,000 since the first lockdown due to a massive increase in demand from people with more time on their hands at home.
Mrs Smith has put up hundreds of missing posters in a desperate bid to find Bear.
She believes a woman and a younger man were also involved in the theft as they had approached her husband moments before.
She said: “It was only the third time we had taken Bear out because he is waiting to have his vaccinations but he was going stir crazy indoors.
“I popped into the shop while Andy waited outside holding Bear on a lead. A woman and a lad came up and started stroking Bear and asked if they could take him for a walk and of course Andy said no.
“They walked off and then this guy, who was aged in his 20s and wearing a red hoodie, cycled up to Andy and began stroking Bear.
“But as he did that he unclipped his lead and just picked Bear up and cycled off. It was over in seconds.
“Andy was stunned and was stood there. I came out the shop and Andy said that somebody had just taken Bear. Two blokes ran after the guy on the bike but he must have been peddling like mad because he got away.”
CCTV footage from the scene shows the man in the area out on a red hoodie before cycling up to Bear.
Mrs Smith, from Poole, is offering a reward for Bear’s safe return.
She added: “It has been a nightmare. You never expect anything like this to happen to you.”
Police are appealing for witnesses to the theft which happened at 3.30pm on Saturday.