Video report by ITV News Meridian's Sarah Saunders
When 9-year-old Chihuahua Peaches wandered off from her home near Folkestone.
Distraught owner Peter Carroll took to social media to appeal for help. He then received a chilling call, you have half an hour, pay up. Or else.
Peter Carroll explains what happened
Peter says: "Within seconds they said 'if you don't give me a thousand pounds "I'm gonna kill the dog".
"Within minutes he said 'half and hour, you've got half and hour'."
"And I'm saying "how do I get the money to you?" They insisted 'no police no police'."
"I'm speechless people can stoop that low".
When asked if he thinks the caller an opportunist of the worst kind, Peter says: "Absolutely, but I think others, maybe older and more vulnerable, I think some people would be harried into it".
As pet thefts rise officers released a heart rending police line up. Police have released images of 48 dogs that were found after a raid in Ipswich.
Detectives believe these pets have been stolen from homes and families across the South and South East. But they stress that even returning dogs can be complex.
Sgt. Carlo Leone, Sussex Police
Sgt. Carlo Leone from Sussex Police, says: "There are some technical issues with it. Lots of dogs look similar, we have lots of people calling in saying that could be my dog"
But there are lots of ways, the main way is by micro chip, but not always and they can be changed, so it's not as simple as jut handing a dog back to someone
Dog theft is still relatively rare but, with around two-thousand dogs stolen every year, the Dogs Trust is running a campaign to make sure dogs are safe and chipped.
And they have heard reports of scammers pretending to have stolen pets - issuing threats for money
Lee Paris, Dogs Trust
Lee Paris, from Dogs Trust, says: " it's really important that potential dog owners source their pets responsibly, Either by coming to rehoming charity or ensuring the breeder is registered, because the online sale of dogs is perpetuating these sort of crimes".
Police are investigating the calls to Peter Carroll.
And he understands Peaches was in fact picked up by good samaritans who have been calling on houses in the area to rejoin the dog with her owners.