A WOMAN has issued a tearful warning to pet owners after four masked men in a van tried to snatch her French Bulldog puppy.
Taylor Homewood was walking 19-week-old Harley home after a short walk last Wednesday when she spotted a white transit van crawling towards her.
Immediately uneasy, Taylor stopped walking and noticed four masked men inside the van eyeing up Harley and nodding to one another.
As the van came to a standstill and the men went to jump out, the 20-year-old from North Weald, Essex, scooped Harley up into her arms, screamed and ran away from them towards another dog walker.
Taylor, who owns online retailer Misshunny London, has since shared a tearful warning to other dog walkers on Instagram sharing her ordeal and urging others to be vigilant.
Speaking in the Instagram clip, she said: "Hi everyone, I hate to say it… to make this video I've had to put a filter on because I look… I've been crying.
"I literally took my dog, which you've probably seen on Instagram, my little Frenchie.
"I took him for a walk, literally opposite my house and I literally walked about five minutes because he got tired and I was on the way back and I saw a white van pull really slow."
Of the men inside, she added: "They all had masks on and they looked at my dog Harley and stepped out of the van so I screamed and started running and then luckily there was a woman on the opposite side of the road as well, which I'm so grateful for and she grabbed me.
"You don't think it's going to happen to you on a Wednesday morning at 11 o'clock literally next to my house.
"So please if you've got any sort of dog just don't, just don't walk them because it's just so awful the world we live in at the minute, that people are just stealing your pets it's just so awful."
The video has racked up more than 35,400 likes and comments, with hundreds of people thanking Taylor for raising awareness by sharing her experience.
After posting the video, Taylor said: "It was a really scary experience. You're not just going to give your dog up, you're going to put up a fight and you don't know if these people have knives.
"I saw this van go really, really slowly and I just had this weird feeling because he was going too slowly.
"I'm looking at them and they're looking at me. I stopped, they stopped the van, looked down at Harley, nodded and I could see [them mouth] 'yeah'.
As the van door went to open I knew what was going to happen so I grabbed him, screamed for help, jumped over a ditch and ran towards a woman out walking.
"The man who was a passenger in the front was wearing a face mask, like the ones we all have to wear now, and the driver had a balaclava on.
"As the van door went to open I knew what was going to happen so I grabbed him, screamed for help, jumped over a ditch and ran towards a woman out walking.
"They drove off really, really slowly while I got my phone out of my pocket and called my mum who came out to see what was going on."
Essex Police said instances of dog thefts in Essex had dropped from 65 reports in 2019, to 60 in 2020.
So far this year they have received five reports of dog thefts, with all of the dogs reported to have been stolen from homes or gardens.
An Essex Police spokesman said: "At around 11am, on Wednesday 17 February, a dog walker reported that three men were seen to be acting suspiciously in a van.
"The concerned dog walker immediately left the area. No attempt to take the dog was reported.
"It is important that if you spot any activity which you believe to be suspicious, please report it to us immediately."
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