A MAJOR Irish drug dealer based in the Midlands has reportedly been paying addicts €150 a day to steal dogs and puppies, according to the Irish Mail on Sunday.
Gardaí were reportedly alerted to the practice after a man and a woman were stopped while acting suspiciously outside Clara in Co. Offaly last month.
The report says that the pair later admitted they had been enlisted by a well-known criminal to try and identifying high-value dogs and puppies to steal.
Gardaí from Moate are continuing to investigate the claims.
A source told the newspaper that criminals have become “very involved” in the theft of dogs over the past few months after noting that several sought-after breeds are worth thousands.
The Irish Mail on Sunday does not name the criminal involved but describes him as a male in his early 40s who is thought to be one of the biggest drug dealers in the Midlands.
He has 33 previous convictions for an array of offences including drug dealing, theft and handling stolen property and violent disorder.
Over the past 10 years he was pled guilty to violent disorder and has also been convicted of riotous behaviour for feud-related violence.
He also spent five years in prison and was handed a 12-month sentence after being found in possession of stolen property.
A source told the Mail: “‘This thug will get involved in anything that will turn a quick profit and at the moment that’s dogs.
“Dog prices went through the roof and he took advantage of that.
“Gardaí believe he has been dropping addicts off at rural locations for €150 a day with instructions to identify and steal dogs. Investigations are ongoing.”
Speaking to the Sundau paper, Gina Hetherington said she was “not surprised” given how lucrative the dog trade has become in recent months.
"Lockdown has been great for us, we are rehoming more animals now than ever before. But this demand is being taken advantage of by people who are only interested in profit. Jack Russell pups are being sold for a thousand, that is just crazy.”
The revelations come a month after gardaí rescued 32 dogs worth in excess €120,000 from a property in Swords that were believed to have been stolen.