A pet owner discovered 70 stolen dogs worth up to £40,000 after going searching for his missing spaniels.
Pet-breeder Tony Cronin launched his own detective work after discovering two litters of puppies and five of his spaniels had vanished.
After sniffing out for leads he got a tip-off about a possible location for a dog-napping racket.
Tony drove to the spot to discover the 70 stolen dogs in cages and also roaming free – he said the dogs were ‘barking like mad’.
Police were called to the site in Carmarthenshire, West Wales, to make two arrests.
Tony said: “It was very really well hidden which is why they use it, and as we were going up the track a huge group of dogs came out to greet us.
“There were Westies, Labradors, Pugs – everything running at us barking like mad.
“Right in the middle of the group was one of my own dogs running towards me, her tail was between her legs as she was frightened.
“She was quite timid and then she saw me and she ran towards me and leaped into my arms and that was that.”
Dyfed Powys Police say 22 dogs have since been returned to their owners and 46 remain in kennels.
It comes after a spike in dognapping cases as the demand for dogs soared in lockdown.
The cost of puppies more than doubled over 2020 – and missing pets website Dogs Lost reported a 170 per cent increase in stolen dogs.
Superintendent Robyn Mason, of Dyfed Powys Police, said: “Dog theft has certainly increased with more people wanting dogs during the pandemic.
“The cost of dogs is going up which means there’s more traction for people to steal the dogs and sell them so it has definitely increased over the last year.”
The RSPCA has also warned pet owners against fraudsters posing as animal welfare officers.
A spokesman for the charity said: “We would like to remind and reassure the public that our inspectors and rescue officers all wear branded uniforms and carry identification.
“If one of our officers knocks on your door, please ask to see their ID and check their uniform for branding. Our staff wear navy blue uniforms with the RSPCA logo, as well as white shirts with a black or blue tie and black epaulets.”
Two people arrested in connection with the 70 dog thefts have been released on bail.