Former amateur boxer fights off dognappers to rescue his dog as thefts rise in lockdown

A former amateur boxer had to put his skills to use and rescue back his own dog after dognappers snatched her from him while they were out for a walk.

Pub landlord James Cosens said he was threatened by two men on the Millennium Coastal Path near Llanelli while taking his 20-week-old dog Rosie out for a walk last Friday.The 29-year-old encountered the men at the Morfa Berwig Nature Reserve near Bynea, when one of them grabbed Rosie and told him they would 'stab him' if he tried to take her back.But the former light-heavyweight amateur fighter, who moved to the area with his wife and young son last August, put his boxing skills to good use and managed to rescue Rosie from the dognappers.

Mr Cosens said: “I recently moved down here with my wife and son, at the end of July ready to re-open the pub after the initial lockdown, and everybody in this community that we have met has been so unbelievably welcoming and friendly.“Even when he picked Rosie up, I didn’t really think too much of it because of the good natures of everyone we’ve met in the local area."But he added that once the man told him, ‘if you attempt to get your dog back I will stab you’, the alarm bells were "obviously ringing!"“I was of course scared, it felt like these guys had nothing to lose, attempting this at 1.30pm when there could potentially be many other walkers out and about to witness.“Fight and flight is a saying that gets thrown around pretty frequently, and I wanted to pick the flight option, but it wasn’t an option without my dog.“In order to get away safely the only thing I felt I could do is hit first to try and have the element of surprise. The first punch I threw managed to floor the man holding Rosie, but he still had a tight grip on her so the altercation moved onto the floor.“He continued to struggle so I punched him twice more and managed to pull my dog out of his arms. During this, his friend hit me four or five times from behind, but I managed to stand up, grab the dog and start making my getaway.“Luckily for me and Rosie the guy that initially grabbed her was a little worse for wear and this ensured that we could move swiftly in the opposite direction”.

Mr Cosens added: “I think they’re probably more used to targeting the vulnerable - the elderly, children maybe. But they saw a young pup and thought it’s worth the risk to have a go and take her.”

Dyfed Powys Police is said to be investigating the “extremely rare” incident.Police say the men were described as one being in his 40s, around 6ft tall, of stocky build, and wearing light blue jeans and a dark puffer jacket and the other in his 20s, around 5ft 6in tall, and wearing similar clothing.Inspector Shaun Bowen, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are aware that news of this incident is causing a high level of concern among dog owners in Llanelli and the surrounding area, some of whom are now fearful of walking their pets.“The incident in Bynea is at present isolated in terms of an individual being targeted while walking their dog, and we have received no further reports.“We urge people to continue to take their usual safety measures while not reacting out of fear, but please do report any incidents or suspicious behaviour to us.”

The incident comes as dog thefts have risen during the Covid-19 lockdown because of a rise in demand for the pets.

Some people have even impersonated RSPCA officers in a bid to steal dogs.

Deputy Chief Constable Amanda Blakeman, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the increase in potential profits had made the illegal trade more attractive to hardened lawbreakers.

Ms Blackman said: “Dog theft can be a devastating crime for families and causes considerable distress to owners.

“Whilst it is still a very rare crime, it’s sadly something we have seen increasing recently.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, criminals have adjusted their activities and are taking advantage of the big demand for pets over the lockdown period.

“The cost of a puppy has considerably increased over the past year making this a lucrative market for organised criminals to exploit.”

Credit: RSPCA

She warned pet owners to be careful posting pictures of their new puppy on social media, and for buyers to consider where the animal had come from.

Last week Dyfed-Powys Police found 80 dogs at a property in Carmarthenshire that are thought to have been stolen.

Two people have been arrested and so far 30 of the animals have been returned to their owners.